Scrutiny of ERW: Our regional education consortium

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Swansea scrutiny team is excited to be working with scrutiny councillors and officers across South West Wales to provide scrutiny of ERW; the education partnership for the region.

ERW (or Education through Regional Working) is a consortium of six councils that supports educational improvement.

Each of the six councils makes a contribution ‘in kind’ to ERW. Our contribution is to provide support for the scrutiny of this regional arrangement.

ERW is keen to ensure good governance and sees an effective scrutiny arrangement as an important part of this. Scrutiny helps to ensure that the ‘democratic deficit’ is minimised. Estyn have also said that they expect regional education consortia to have either a joint scrutiny committee or a coordinating mechanism of some kind. It is fair to say, however, that scrutiny of these regional arrangements is challenging and often runs into difficulties.

Scrutiny councillors across the regions have been carefully considering how scrutiny of ERW should work and agreed their approach at a recent meeting hosted by Neath Port Talbot Council.

The model that has been adopted is called the ERW Scrutiny Councillor Group. This is a coordinating arrangement that will help to ensure the best educational outcomes for children in the ERW region by supporting effective scrutiny. It aims to:

  • Support consistent scrutiny across the six councils
  • Share scrutiny good practice
  • Encourage shared scrutiny approaches and avoid the duplication of scrutiny work
  • Provide critical and objective challenge to ERW on topics of interest as required
  • Contribute to the good and effective governance of ERW

Underpinning the group is a number of assumptions:

  • Scrutiny of ERW takes place through the scrutiny arrangements of individual councils
  • In each council the cabinet member(s) responsible for ERW will be held to account by scrutiny councillors
  • The group is an informal coordinating mechanism not a formal committee
  • The group will share its work and publish key documents
  • The group will continue to develop and refine its role and its work

ERW has been working with scrutiny officers previously and built up strong links with the scrutiny functions in each of the six councils. This new group will take that work onto the next level by ensuring that the scrutiny structure is councillor led.

The group will consist of two scrutiny members from each council and it will meet twice a year. The first meeting will take place in Swansea in March.

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