27/11/2013 - Permalink

Scrutiny changes called for by Council Leader welcomed

Related topics: Democracy

The Leader of Shropshire Council, Councillor Keith Barrow, has urged fellow members to look at new ways of scrutinising policy and services, which aim to give councillors and the public more opportunities to shape the work taking place.

At today’s Performance Management Scrutiny Committee (27 November 2013) he called on councillors to embrace the chance to make scrutiny – which focuses on reviewing policy, the quality and performance of services and holds Cabinet to account for its decisions – more open and constructive.

Members welcomed the proposed changes and chairs of scrutiny committees are now working together with officers to look at the next steps.

Councillor Barrow said:

“We are radically changing the way we work across the council. We need to reinvent everything we do so it’s genuinely built around the needs of our customers, rather than getting bogged down in processes, and make the most of the money that is available.

“Scrutiny is no exception; it’s time to explore a new way of scrutinising the work of the council.

“We’ve suggested that instead of the traditional model, centring on a pre-determined schedule of standalone meetings, and discussion of matters after the event, we find out first-hand how services are evolving on the frontline. Scrutiny members can get closer to the work on the ground and see the redesign first hand, being able to provide challenge at the time of change rather than after change has actually happened.

“The people of Shropshire can benefit more from such an approach than, from the traditional more bureaucratic model of councillors sitting in a meeting room, looking at documents without being involved in the changes.

“For example, today on the committee agenda was the draft Business Plan and Financial Strategy 2014-17. The plan will develop and evolve over the next few months, the level of detail behind it will be refined and we as elected councillors can be at the heart of this.

“Meetings would not be dictated by the calendar but by when scrutiny has something to tell people about.

“We want the public to know what’s going on, and by working in this way we can give them a better picture and involve them as changes are taking place.

“Furthermore, we can get the public really involved in scrutiny using different communication channels; rather than just inviting them to meetings or to submit questions to meetings. They can have a say throughout the whole process.”

Councillor Martin Bennett, chair of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee, added:

“This offer has been welcomed with enthusiasm by committee members. Scrutiny can put its energy where it really matters, be more active, and make sure work is being done right in the first place. We can have more opportunities to challenge, and invite the public and partners to be part of this.”