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Scrutiny committee could be set up at council

Created on 02/10/2018 @ 13:28
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Better scrutiny of decisions and policies have been identified as one of the key areas of improving Powys County Council.

It is possible that a third main scrutiny committee will be set up in the near future to look at decisions made by the Powys Cabinet.

Councillors and officers in Llandrindod Wells have met and listened to advice given by their counterparts from a County Council in North Wales once dubbed, the “most corrupt” in the UK.

In March 2011, the Isle of Anglesey County Council became the first UK Council to have its executive functions taken over as it was put into special measures for two years due to decades of political infighting.

Commissioners appointed by the Welsh Government were brought in to run the council for two years, with the council elections delayed for a year and behind the rest of the authorities in Wales.

And now officers and councillors from the island have been to Llandrindod Wells explaining that effective scrutiny is part of the road to recovery.

The Health, Care and Housing Scrutiny Committee chairman Cllr Gwilym Williams explained that it was possible that another scrutiny committee would be set up.

Cllr Williams, said: “There’s been a thing about the workings of scrutiny recently.

“Anglesey came and gave a presentation of how it works there.

“There are two scrutiny committees there and a total of 30 county councillors, they have regular meetings with the executive, every month I believe if my memory serves me right.

“It seems to be working there as they were in a very similar situation to us with regards to children’s services.

“We had another meeting with them and discussed how Powys Scrutiny will change in the future. There will be a report on the changes that could be made. It’s looking like we may go up an extra scrutiny (committee).”

Cllr Williams added that it would be possible for chairs and vice-chairs will meet with cabinet and officers every six weeks to two months.

“Which is something we have not had in the past,” said Cllr Williams. “We will wait on the report and see what comes out of that. There would be an issue on funding the extra chair, we’re not sure where that will come from. There have been some suggestions around that but nothing has been decided.”

At the moment, Powys has two main scrutiny committees, the Health Care and Housing Scrutiny Committee and Learning Skills and Economy Scrutiny Committee.

Chairs receive an extra £8,700 on top of the basic county councillors salary of £13,600.

The Audit and Public Service Board committee is also included in the list as “scrutiny committees”.

The suggestions to beef up scrutiny come from the Improvement and Assurance Board which has been set up to guide the recovery of the Children’s Services department.

The board can also look further and review “leadership, governance, strategy and capacity” across the whole organisation to: “assist the Leader in driving forward the required change and improvement in the local authority.”

A recent report by the Board Chairman, Jack Straw, highlighted scrutiny as a hot topic.

In his report from August, Mr Straw said: “There is yet no clear consensus on the adequacy of scrutiny arrangements, with markedly different views expressed.

“Further work with the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association) is planned, and it is vital that the issue is resolved.

“All appear agreed on the importance of robust and challenging scrutiny but not on how this should be achieved.”

A PCC spokesman explained further: “The council is reviewing the way it operates its scrutiny function and is establishing a Scrutiny Development Board with the intention of review the scrutiny arrangements and if appropriate, taking recommendations to full council later this year. ”

“As part of that process, and to learn from good practice elsewhere members of the council’s scrutiny committee and Cabinet have met with officers and members from Anglesey Council to learn from their experiences.

“Anglesey council faced a critical Children’s Services inspection two years ago. Some scrutiny members have also observed Monmouthshire County Council’s scrutiny committees.”

The road to redemption on Anglesey has been a long one, with many of the councillors who were seen as troublemakers leaving the scene.

Since 2013, the political situation on Anglesey has stabilised but its Children’s Services department came in for criticism by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate of Wales (CSSIW) in November 2016.

It also had to come up with an improvement plan for the department, as Powys CC has had to for its this year.

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