Agenda item

Agenda item

Scrutiny reports

Scrutiny Committee met on 12 April 2022.  The following reports are expected and will be published as a supplement, together with any other recommendations to Cabinet from that meeting:

·       Procurement Update

·       Oxfordshire 2050 Plan

·       DSS Discrimination Motion Update

·       Tenant Involvement and Empowerment (NB No Cabinet response is expected to this item until the first Cabinet meeting after the election)


Tom Hudson, scrutiny Officer, presented reports which had been considered by Scrutiny Committee at its informal meeting on 12 April and prior meetings.

Procurement Update

Scrutiny Committee had considered potential changes to the Council’s Procurement Strategy, which was currently under review.  The Committee’s considerations had focused on social value in procurement and learning from good practice, most notably from Preston Council.  It had also considered ways of broadening the impact by working with other anchor institutions across the City in order to develop the social value and community wealth-building approach.  Recommendations made in relation to specific policies included ensuring that the definition of ‘value for money’ within the policy was consistent with the community wealth building agenda, and that the Council undertook ethical due diligence checks to ensure compatibility of commercial partners with its own standards.

In the absence of Councillor Turner, Deputy Leader (Statutory) - Finance and Asset Management, the Chair replied that the response which had been provided by the Cabinet Member was broadly in support of the recommendations, and they had been taken on board.

Oxfordshire 2050 Plan

Scrutiny had considered a report on the progress of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050; in particular looking at responses to the most recent consultation exercise.  The recommendations had largely centred around two main categories, which were (i) greater transparency and representation in the consultation exercises; and (ii) specific policies around water treatment; parks, play areas and nature reserves; and inequality and deprivation.  Scrutiny would be considering a further report in June or July; the recommendations before Cabinet therefore represented an interim response.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery, responded that whilst he generally supported the recommendations, he had also included some clarifications.  Although the consultation process was important - and the recommendation for a wider demographic mix was accepted – it was not a referendum on options.  The tests which a Local Plan had to pass in order to be found sound were set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and were not contingent on the number of representations received. 

One of the recommendations had referenced local policies on issues such as play areas, parks and nature reserves.  The Cabinet Member responded that these were issues for Local or Neighbourhood Plans, rather than the overarching Oxfordshire 2050 Plan.

The recommendation that the Council works with partners to ensure alignment between Thames Water’s future investment plans for water treatment works and those areas outlined in Oxfordshire for growth was endorsed, and the Chair undertook to raise this with the Future Oxfordshire Partnership.

DSS Discrimination Motion Update

The Housing and Homelessness Panel had considered an update report on progress made against actions sought by Council in a motion passed in July 2021 to strengthen safeguards against DSS discrimination.

The Panel had heard that good progress had been made in almost all areas.  The main outstanding action related to the setting up of a tenants’ forum, although this was underway.  Two recommendations had been made which had related to: (i) extending the reach and awareness of the support in place by publicising this amongst third party organisations such as advice centres and unions; and (ii) asking the tenants’ forum to decide whether it wished to include both private rented sector and social tenants simultaneously, or alternatively whether their interests would be better served by splitting into two.

Councillor Diko Walcott, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing, Housing Security and Housing the Homeless responded that she fully accepted the recommendations, which were solution-focused, and thanked the Panel.

Tenant Involvement and Empowerment

The Scrutiny Officer presented the report of the Housing and Homelessness Panel on Tenant Involvement and Empowerment, which represented the outcome of work undertaken by the Panel throughout the year.  19 recommendations had been made, of which many involved formalising or regularising existing tenant involvement activity.  Recommendations for new innovations included a suggestion for an overarching Board to discuss tenant and leaseholder issues and report on performance, and a new case management system. There had also been a recommendation relating to the adequacy of structures to enable tenants to challenge areas of spending, so as to meet requirements contained in the Social Housing white paper.

A response to the recommendations would be given at the first Cabinet meeting after the forthcoming election.

The Chair announced that Tom Hudson, Scrutiny Officer, would shortly be leaving the Council to take up another post, and was attending his final Cabinet meeting.  On behalf of Cabinet she thanked him for all of his work, and wished him well for the future.

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