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Agenda item

Overview and Scrutiny during Covid-19

The Head of Policy and Partnerships to report



The Committee received a presentation from the Head of Policy and Partnerships (Laurie Brennan) containing proposals with regard to the role of scrutiny during Covid-19. 




Mr Brennan reported on the democratic accountability and scrutiny during Covid-19, the role of scrutiny as the Council recovers from the pandemic, the effectiveness of the virtual scrutiny meetings held to date, and a suggested way forward. 




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·             It was planned that a review of the proposals would be undertaken in August 2020, and it was confirmed that the suggestions now reported only comprised temporary arrangements.




·             The Committee was being asked to put forward a number of suggestions and a range of views, which could then be considered at a meeting of the Committee Chairs, and the respective Policy and Improvement Officers. 




Members of the Committee raised the following points:-




·             It was correct that specific emphasis should be given to meetings of the Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee, in the light of Covid-19.




·             It was important to look at other issues which would be considered by the other Scrutiny Committees, such as domestic violence and the impact of Covid-19 on the Housing Revenue Account.




·             Whilst the current, temporary arrangements appeared to be working satisfactorily, there was no substitute for the usual scrutiny function.




·             There could be justification for arranging meetings of all the Scrutiny Committees as Covid-19 was affecting the City in a number of different ways.




·             It was important that all the Scrutiny Committees were back up and operating as soon as possible as there were a number of Members on the other committees with specific knowledge, which was valuable as part of the Council’s democratic process, particularly during these difficult times.  All the Scrutiny Committees should be meeting, although not as regularly as they used to.




·             There was no need to arrange meetings for the sake of it, particularly given the present situation, and the demands on officer time and resources. 




·             The Chairs and Deputy Chairs of all the Scrutiny Committees should meet to discuss which topics required scrutiny.




·             This Committee should meet in the near future to discuss which topics should be prioritised. 




·             There was a need to be mindful of staffing resources available, as well as issues regarding Information Technology.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the information reported as part of the presentation, the responses to the questions raised and the comments now made;




(b)      agrees that arrangements be made for a further meeting of this Committee to be held in the near future, given the number of important issues requiring consideration, and discussion be held at that meeting on a proposed plan with regard to arranging meetings of the other Scrutiny Committees, with such proposals being based on current staffing resources and IT capacity; and




(c)      requests that the Head of Policy and Partnerships meets with the Chairs and Deputy Chairs of all the Scrutiny Committees to prioritise a list of suggested topics for consideration, to inform the discussion to be held at the next meeting of this Committee, as referred to above.