Consider the findings of Campbell Tickell following their review of the scrutiny arrangements.
Hilary Gardener of Campbell Tickell
The Chairman welcomed Hilary Gardner, an Associate with Campbell Tickell (CT). For the benefit of members who had enquired as to why her findings had not been circulated in advance, she explained that CT preferred not to present their findings in advance, as it provided no context and often raised lots of questions amongst those members with whom they had not met (interviewed). She then proceeded to talk through a PowerPoint presentation (attached at Appendix 1) and made the following key points:
· CT, one of the UKs leading consultancies, had worked with more than 800 organisations, and in the last two years this had included CBH and Ubico.
· CT had been tasked with assessing the current arrangements and ways of working in the context of the Statutory Guidance and make recommendations about how the committee could be more effective and how resources could be better focussed or increased.
· There was no single, definitive description of the role and purpose of scrutiny, and information as to the expectations of O&S lack focus, clarity and sometimes consistency.
· A role description for the committee chair should be drafted that outlined key skills and responsibilities.
· Focussed member training sessions should be arranged and this should be held within a meeting, so as to provide real focus.
· Formal feedback from the Leader (Cabinet) to O&S should be introduced.
· With finite resources the committee needed to consider its topics for scrutiny more carefully and focus more on the council’s priorities, though this would not preclude them from prioritising other topics.
· Although dedicated resource for the committee had improved since the review was commissioned, officer support more generally, needed to be better focussed.
· Some of the reports she had reviewed were far too long. The committee should consider introducing a maximum page limit for reports.
· She welcomed news that PowerPoint training for officers had been arranged and proposed that presentations at the meeting should be consistently managed by the chair.
· It was suggested that the chair should sense check all reports before publication.
· All members should be encouraged to contribute and feel comfortable to do so, as the meeting that had been observed had been dominated by a small number of members.
· A coversheet would give clarity on the purpose of the report and the action(s) the committee were being asked to take.
· She felt that decisions and actions should be tracked but was aware that was already in hand following the introduction of Clearview.
· To make better use of member energy and time, items for scrutiny should feature higher up the agenda than those that simply provide an overview.
· The duration of meetings should be limited to two hours.
· A wrap-up session at the end of each meeting would give members the opportunity to discuss positives and negatives.
Hilary gave the following responses to member questions:
· There was no suggestion of political bias within the committee, however some members had commented that call-in was infrequently used as it was considered that given the political make-up of the council and the large majority, there was little point in challenging some decisions.
· It was important that the committee focussed on prioritising its time and focus on council objectives, though this was not to say that it shouldn’t prioritise other topics as appropriate.
In summing up, Hilary summarised what she considered to be the key recommendations:
· The need for a single clear description of the role of the committee.
· The need for additional training and support for members and for any sessions to be held within a meeting.
· A formal process for getting feedback from the Leader.
· Shorter reports.
· An agenda front sheet which sets out why an item has come to committee and what the committee are being asked to do.
· Splitting the agenda into scrutiny items at the start and overview items at the end.
· A wrap up session at the end of each meeting.
A member expressed their support for more focus on council priorities and less on members’ personal interests. However, another member felt that the committee should be cautious when dismissing any such topics as these things often came to light in one ward before it quickly transpired, as a result of having considered the issue, that it was an issue facing residents in other wards.
She commended the committee for how openly they had approached the review and for their obvious commitment to improve.
The Chairman thanked Hilary and Campbell Tickell for their work on the review and accepted that the committee had to work smarter. He looked forward to seeing her final report and recommendations.
The Executive Director of People & Change felt reviews were valuable, refinements important and having shone a spotlight on the scrutiny function, he too looked forward to taking forward any recommendations.