Posted on 23/03/2021

The last 12 months has brought with it many challenges and as Chair of the Council’s overarching Scrutiny Committee, I am proud to share with you our approaches and successes as we continued to maintain constructive challenge during the hardest of times.

As the Council responded to the initial stages of the national pandemic it was appropriate for all Scrutiny Committee meetings to be suspended.  However, within weeks Members were receiving training on the ‘Zoom’ platform with a view to resurrecting the meetings virtually via this platform. The Overview & Scrutiny Committee held its first meeting on the 26th June 2020. It was a collective effort with Members and Officers bringing together a short, sharp yet effective Council response to the pandemic. For the three months to follow, the Overview & Scrutiny Committee became the single point of scrutiny, to which all Members were invited, concentrating on the business-critical issues on behalf of the four thematic scrutiny committees.

What quickly transpired was the delivery of an effective scrutiny service, as Members became familiar with virtual protocol without placing expectations on their Officers and the return to business as usual by October 2020. Since that time the Overview & Scrutiny Committee has considered important and strategic issues some of which I have highlighted as follows:

We considered the impact of the flooding in RCT that occurred in February 2020 and with invited partners, Council Officers and Cabinet Members we began the first of many meetings which considered a wealth of information, presentation slides and invited submissions both verbal and written from all Elected Members (the verbal accounts specifically from Members whose wards were worst affected by the floods to our Scrutiny Inquiry Session). Importantly, the feedback from our review formed part of the Council’s internal review to Cabinet in December 2020. There have been a number of improvements and mitigations taken forward by the Council as a result of issues raised in our review.

We are anticipating the opportunity to comment upon the Section 19 statutory reports on conclusion of the ongoing investigations that the Council is undertaking into the February Floods as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.    

In December we also had a further opportunity to comment on the outcome of the consultation on the preferred options for the future of the Council’s eleven residential care homes for older people. This has long been an area of focus for the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and an area where scrutiny can and has made an impact.

In addition to the larger more pressing matters we have also been monitoring the more routine reports that we would have ordinarily considered such as the Local Authority’s arrangements to safeguard children and adults at risk, the Council’s Customer Feedback Scheme, the fire risk assessments of council owned/occupied buildings and the Cabinet and our own forward work programmes which keep us on track and aware of the work that is forthcoming. We have fed into in a number of consultations around the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill (now Local Government and Elections (Wales)  Act 2021) which will continue to form an important part of our forward work programme, to consider the provisions such as the increased opportunities for public engagement and transparency in local government including the strengthening of scrutiny arrangements through the provision of timely information by Executive for us to build upon our already established pre-scrutiny arrangements

This year, although challenging on many levels, has proved that scrutiny in this local authority is more resilient than we had previously appreciated and can be delivered with a level of flexibility which had not previously been realised.

Posted on 23/03/2021