Agenda item

Agenda item

Scrutiny Operating Principles & Standing Panel Arrangements

The Head of Law and Governance has submitted a report which seeks the Committee’s agreement to the adoption of  a set of operating principles for the Scrutiny Committee for the 2021/22 municipal year, establish standing panels and appoint standing panel Chairs. The recommendations are set out in the report.


The Chair noted that it was proposed to adopt the operating principles which had been used previously and as set out in Appendix One of the report.

The Scrutiny Officer explained that the number of review groups and standing panels was necessarily constrained. The proposal before the Committee for the three standing panels and two review groups could be amended but only if an increase in one was compensated for by a reduction in the other.

In relation to the proposed co-option of a tenant to the Housing & Homelessness Panel, it was suggested that there would be merit in a more flexible arrangement for the engagement of the homeless community. It was emphasised that this was not a reflection on the individual proposed but simply a wish to ensure that the Panel benefitted from a wider range of views from that community. The Committee agreed to defer this decision to the Housing and Homelessness Panel.

The wording of recommendation 3e was in need of clarification. The Scrutiny Officer noted that this wording was drawn from the Constitution and this would be addressed by an amendment to it in due course.

It was noted that the Budget Review Group’s work was particularly intense and demanding and that the previous practice of having a membership of 4 rather than the 6 (as proposed for  the Panels) was likely to be preferable. The Scrutiny Officer said a decision about the arrangements for that group, which was separate from the Finance and Performance Panel, would not have to be made until the Autumn.

In relation to scrutiny of the Council’s companies, new overall governance arrangements for the companies were being developed. In the absence of those details it was agreed that the Committee should proceed with the establishment of its Companies Scrutiny Panel in the usual way. The Scrutiny Officer agreed to bring the matter of the new governance arrangements to the July meeting to give the Committee an opportunity to comment on them if it wished to do so.

The Scrutiny Officer alerted the Committee to two proposed/likely changes to the schedule of meetings: Companies Panel on 21 June was unlikely to go ahead on that day. The Housing & Homelessness Panel on 05 July conflicted with an all Member event and he would liaise with the Chair of that Panel to find an alternative date.

The Committee agreed to appoint the following as Chairs to the three Panels

·         Housing & Homelessness: Cllr Smith

·         Finance & Performance: Cllr Fry

·         Companies Scrutiny: Cllr Chapman


The Scrutiny Officer set out the proposal for a more flexible approach to the Committee’s Work Plan which would enable a more responsive approach to variations in the Cabinet Forward Plan. At the heart of the proposal was the prioritisation of anticipated Cabinet reports for Scrutiny consideration.

It was agreed that that the opportunity to contribute the Committee’s views prior to completion of Cabinet reports (as well as after) would sometimes be valuable. The report going to Cabinet in July on the Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy was given as an example and the desirability of ensuring that full account was taken of the need of that strategy to embrace the needs of disabled users and lower income families who would have less easy access to charging points outside their homes. The Scrutiny Officer agreed that the Committee could, with reference to the Forward Plan, make such informal contributions to future Cabinet reports if it wished. The Committee agreed that the Scrutiny Officer should pass on the comments raised in relation to the EV strategy.

The Committee noted the importance of taking proper account of equality and diversity in the Council’s work and that this should be reflected in the Committee’s work programme in a suitable way.  The Scrutiny Officer agreed to follow up the suggestion with Cllr Tidball with a view to bringing a proposal to the following meeting.

In response to the recommendations given in the covering report, the Committee resolved to:

1.    Agree the proposed Committee Operating Principles as set out in Appendix 1 but for an amended version to be brought back before the Committee for agreement to elucidate the Committee’s commitment to scrutinising diversity issues at the next meeting

2.  Agree to establish the following standing panels for the 2021/22 municipal year with the following remits and timeframes:

i)          Finance and Performance Panel – finance and budgetary issues and decisions, annual review of the Council’s budget, quarterly monitoring of finance and performance);

ii)         Housing and Homelessness Panel – strategic housing and landlord issues and decisions, homelessness, housing services performance;

iii)        Companies Scrutiny Panel - executive decisions made in relation to any companies wholly or partly owned by the Council but subject the Committee considering a report on any future governance changes of the Companies and possible impacts on Scrutiny.

3.    Agree the schedule of meetings as presented within the reportnoting the cancellation of the Housing and Homelessness Panel on 05 July and the likely rescheduling of the June Companies Scrutiny Panel.

Agree the allocation of seats on standing panels to political groups for 2021/22 (Finance and Performance Panel: 6, Companies Scrutiny Panel: 6, Housing and Homelessness Panel: 6,

4.    Agree the appointment of Chairs of the Finance and Performance, Housing and Homelessness, and Companies Scrutiny Panels as indicated above.

5.    Agree i) the new means of managing the Scrutiny function’s work plan as in Appendices 2a and 2b, ii) the preliminary work plan covering the period to August 2021 as detailed in Appendix 3 and iii) that Committee members will send ideas for topics for Scrutiny-commissioned reports to the Scrutiny Officer by e mail for consideration at the Committee’s 14 July meeting.




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