Continuity and renewal – meet the new scrutiny work programme

A new work programme has now been agreed, with a varied selection of topics that councillors plan to look at over the coming year. It represents both continuity and renewal to ensure that scrutiny is always looking at the right things. But before we get to that, a little about how we got here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve been busy working behind the scenes over the last few months welcoming new and returning councillors following May’s Council elections, and preparing for a new year of scrutiny.

The Council arranged a Councillor Market Place soon after the election which enabled people from service areas across the Council to showcase their work.  The Scrutiny Team used the event to introduce ourselves and get to know new councillors. In true scrutiny fashion, with clip board in hand, we asked about their interests, concerns and needs, and promoted the scrutiny function. From the ‘evidence’ gathered we learned that the level of knowledge about scrutiny was actually high amongst new councillors, and we got a clear sense of their topics of interest.

Scrutiny Induction Sessions took place in early June which provided an opportunity for better understanding of the role of scrutiny and how it can make a difference. We plugged the powerful opportunities that it provides for questioning, inquiry, monitoring, and providing challenge to decision-makers. We debated approaches to questioning and discussed key components of effective questioning.

Following on from the induction, our Scrutiny Work Planning Conference was held mid-June.  Every year we invite all scrutiny councillors to participate in an informal discussion on priorities for scrutiny, and invite suggestions.  It’s always important to look back at the previous plan, consider the council’s corporate priorities, and think about views from the public, which we gather through various consultations.

It’s the responsibility of our Scrutiny Programme Committee, chaired by Councillor Mary Jones, to agree a work programme. Taking note of feedback from the conference and guiding principles (strategic and significant, focussed on issues of concern, and representing a good use of scrutiny time and resources) the Committee agreed the programme at its meeting on 10 July.

The Committee recognised the importance of aligning scrutiny work more closely to the corporate priorities, but retaining a balance so there is room to look at issues of community concern. The committee also considered whether there would be good coverage of scrutiny activity across all cabinet portfolios.

The new work programme

The committee agreed to continue with the previous Performance Panels, but added a sixth which will focus on regular monitoring of Development & Regeneration, particularly given significant plans for city centre re-development and the recently agreed Swansea Bay City Region Deal.

The committee anticipates completion of two in-depth inquiries this municipal year, on Regional Working, and the Natural Environment. Both will call for a range of evidence gathering and lead to a final report with conclusions and recommendations for Cabinet.

In terms of one-off Working Groups, a list of issues have been identified and prioritised. The first two that councillors will look at are very topical: Emergency Planning & Resilience, and Community Cohesion & Hate Crime. Further Working Groups planned for the year ahead include: Homelessness, Car Park Charges, Roads & Footway Maintenance, Renewable Energy, and Digital Inclusion.

We’ve been seeking expressions of interest amongst scrutiny councillors to lead / participate in these activities and expect things to be up and running from August.

The Committee itself will continue to focus on holding cabinet members to account and has developed a schedule of question and answer sessions for each of its monthly meetings.

Finally, the team has undergone some changes too in recent months – it’s a farewell to Dave Mckenna who has left his role as Scrutiny Manager. Thanks Dave for all your hard work supporting scrutiny over the past 12 years! And it’s a warm welcome to Liz Jordan and Bethan Hopkins who join as Scrutiny Officers, replacing Delyth Davies and Rosie Jackson. Sadly our Research Officer, Jenna Tucker, also left us at the end of July to pursue a new career, so good luck Jenna, we’ll miss you!

We’ll be blogging again on the key scrutiny activities taking place and their impact, so watch this space!

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