Scrutiny Dispatches – February 2014

Every month council receives an update from scrutiny about the work it has been doing. It aims to provide the headlines, typically with one major story each time, to raise awareness and visibility of the work and impact of scrutiny.







Here’s this months roundup:

1. What is the connection between Parks, Planning and School Meals?

These issues were recently looked at by a Scrutiny Working Group. This involved a group of interested councillors getting together to meet with relevant cabinet members and/or officers for a one-off meeting. Whilst most scrutiny activity is carried out through the Scrutiny Programme Committee itself and by establishing informal Inquiry and Performance Panels, Scrutiny Working Groups provide opportunity for ‘light touch’ scrutiny of a topic of interest. This supports the idea of flexibility within the work programme and capacity to pick up specific issues as they arise. The Working Group may then make recommendations to the relevant Cabinet Member (typically through a convener’s letter) or, if it is felt that more in-depth scrutiny is required, they can refer this to the committee for a future work planning discussion.

In the case of the Working Group looking at the Parks Service, led by Councillor John Newbury, the meeting enabled scrutiny councillors to obtain information and put questions relating to: parks provision across Swansea; performance and trends (including usage); the upkeep of parks in local communities; green flag success; and future challenges, risks and opportunities.

Another Working Group recently held, led by Councillor Mark Thomas, focused on the Planning Service, with scrutiny councillors raising questions and getting the opportunity to talk about concerns relating to issues including: enforcement activity; the relationship between planning and building control; staff recruitment and retention; officer / member relationship; and planning fee income.

Over the last year a number of other issues have been tackled using a Working Group including: Allotments; Welfare Reform; and School Meals. Future Working Groups that have already been identified will soon be looking at the following:

  • Social Housing – to discuss the potential of introducing a single waiting list for social housing in Swansea that covers the Council and all Registered Social Landlords (convener: Cllr Hennegan)
  • Historic Buildings – to discuss the maintenance of historic buildings in Swansea, powers and responsibilities (convener: Cllr Meara)
  • Car Parking – to discuss the provision across Swansea, performance, and plans for improvement (convener: Cllr Colburn)

2. New Education Inclusion Inquiry Panel (Lead: Councillor Cheryl Philpott)

As existing inquiries come to an end the Scrutiny Programme Committee considers what new Inquiry Panels are needed. The guiding principles behind any future inquiry are that it must be strategic and significant, an issue of concern, and represent a good use of scrutiny time. One of the issues identified is the need to look at why some children require education other than at school, and what can be done to improve their outcomes. A new Inquiry Panel has been established and will be meeting in February to commence this work. The first task for any Inquiry Panel is to develop clear Terms of Reference and plan the evidence gathering. The Panel will report after 6 months.

3. Gypsy & Traveller Site Provision – Scrutiny Review of Process (Lead: Councillor Clive Lloyd)

Following reference at Council, the Scrutiny Programme Committee has now agreed a brief for this scrutiny activity. This work will enable scrutiny to review the process adopted to date in the search for a second Gypsy and Traveller Site, seek assurance on quality, identify any learning points, and recommend any changes for the future as appropriate.

It was agreed that the most effective way of carrying out this work would be via special meetings of the committee, but giving thought to how other councillors can be engaged in the process. These meetings will be chaired by Cllr Clive Lloyd.

A series of special meetings of the Scrutiny Programme Committee are being planned for 20 February, 6 March, 24 March and 3 April.

4. How can I find out more about informal Panels and Working Groups? (Lead: Councillor Mike Day)

Although Scrutiny Panels and Working Groups represent an informal way of working, meetings are accessible to the public. Because of their ad hoc nature efforts are being made to ensure visibility and awareness about meetings and issues being discussed, so that people can engage with this work as desired.

All meetings are included in the Council diary and included in the timetable of fortnightly meetings. A weekly update is provided to councillors, published on the council’s website and placed on notice boards. In addition, news about Panels and Working Groups is featured on the Swansea Scrutiny blog. Here you will find details of upcoming meetings and points of contact if you require more details, as well as stories about key findings from this work. Councillors receive an automatic email of new content which they can share, but anyone can subscribe for updates.

5. How can I influence the future Scrutiny Work Programme? (Lead: Councillor Mike Day)

As we are about to enter the final quarter of the municipal year councillors are reminded that they will once again be invited to participate in the Scrutiny Annual Work Planning Conference. The conference will take place in May 2014 to consider and identify priorities for scrutiny for the 2014/15 council year. Councillors will be able to feed in ideas about future topics for scrutiny through the Scrutiny Annual Stakeholder Survey that will be out in March. The Scrutiny Work Programme will be also be informed by views from staff, public and partners.

Even with a work programme established requests for scrutiny on matters of concern can be made throughout the year. The chair of the Scrutiny Programme Committee will consider any issue raised and, with the committee’s agreement, determine how best scrutiny can deal with it.


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