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Rhondda Cynon Taf Council - Scrutiny Blog

Councillor Julie Edwards - Overview & Scrutiny - Chair's Blog

Posted on 04/04/2023

As we all begin to return to the new “normal” following the challenges we have faced in recent years, I am proud to share with you how, in my first year as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, we have continued to constructively challenge the Council and maintain our role as a critical friend to demonstrate that scrutiny can add value and make a difference to local people.

Upon revising the Terms of Reference for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the membership was also revised to include the Chairs and Vice Chairs of each Scrutiny Committee which supports us in our work programme scheduling and avoids a duplication of reporting. As part of the new way of working, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee now undertakes monitoring of the Councils financial Performance.  One of the most important roles of a Councillor, particularly in a scrutiny environment, is to amplify the experiences you as local residents have of Council services, both positive and negative. And this new approach to challenging performance data now enables Scrutiny chairs to use this data more effectively to enable their committees dive into the details of service delivery. We questioned the process on the recruitment and retention of staff, particularly in the Health and Social care sector and how these staff can be better supported as they are delivering a high pressured role caring for our most vulnerable residents.  As a Committee we were reassured to hear of the many support services available to all staff such as “Care First” which offers our staff free specialist support and advice including counselling services.  It was pleasing to hear of the Councils commitment to invest in staff by offering ongoing training and by signing up to the Real Living Wage Policy.  We have requested further reports from the Council’s Recruitment and Retention Steering Group in the future.

Our greater co-ordination role, has allowed representatives from all scrutiny areas to comment upon the Council’s Budget Strategy for 2023/24 and the response of the Council’s significant public sector funding pressures. This has included considering the services changes proposed by Cabinet.

The Overview & Scrutiny Committee has considered many important and strategic issues, such as the 2023 Review of Parliamentary Constituencies in Rhondda Cynon Taf.  We appreciated the challenge facing the commission, in reducing the number of Welsh constituencies from 40 to 32, and the reality of this scenario in shaping new parliamentary representation in Wales.  Members commented that the Pencoed areas of Hendre and Felindre wards would align better within the new Bridgend constituency or equally the new Vale of Glamorgan constituency, due to the stronger local connection. Members all recognised that there was no social, cultural or historical connection between these specific areas and the Rhondda.  One of the recommendations we put forward to the Commission was to consider the North of the Rhondda constituency, and include communities such as Nantymoel and the Garw Valley which has a far greater geographical connection and also has similar demographic and cultural connections to the Rhondda.  We look forward to the outcome of the review being published before the 1st July 2023

We also had a further opportunity to help shape the Residential Care Homes for Older People which is going through a comprehensive modernisation programme.  We used this opportunity to ensure the proposals deliver a service model that is provides the highest quality services and meets the needs of our residents. We recognised the case for change, identifying the need for homes that are fit for purpose in the future and also recognising residents’ preference to be cared for in their own homes.  We fed back to Cabinet that the proposals to invest in all facilities should come forward as soon as possible to improve the offer to residents with dedicated teams in place to manage the proposed changes. Overall, we welcomed the review of the proposals and we will be kept updated on proposals as they move through to the implementation phase.

This represents just a snapshot of our work this year. Other meetings, pre-scrutiny and consultation work will be included in our 2022/23 Overview & Scrutiny Annual report. The report will be published shortly to the Council Scrutiny website for our residents to view. Moving forward we are keen to strengthen public participation into our considerations, and using first-hand service user feedback to inform our work.

As Chair to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, I believe that it is our duty to challenge and hold to account the Executive and you have my commitment that I will continue to work with the Chairs and Vice Chairs of our Scrutiny Committees to ensure transparency in all decision-making processes in the Authority.  Through our Committee meetings, we will highlight areas where improvements need to be made and ensure that public funds are being used in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

Posted on 04/04/2023