The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board in the 2021/22 municipal year, Councillor C. Hotham, presented the Board’s Annual Report for Members’ consideration.
Council was informed that the Board had investigated a range of matters during the year, as detailed in the report. In addition, there had been three Task Group exercises, focusing on Equalities, Flooding and Libraries. Recommendations had been made by each of these groups, which had received a mixed response from Cabinet. Members were asked to note that Task Groups were cross party teams of Councillors investigating subjects in detail over a period of time and their findings needed to be considered carefully when presented for the consideration of Cabinet, which ultimately determined whether recommendations made through the scrutiny process should be agreed.
During consideration of this item, reference was made to the impact of the Flooding Task Group, with Members noting that the group’s recommendations had not been endorsed. Instead, there had been a separate review of flooding undertaken by officers at the same time as the Task Group exercise which had recently concluded. Whilst the group’s recommendation to employ two extra members of staff had not been agreed by Cabinet due to concerns about the financial costs and the amount of work available for them, Members were advised that external contractors were undertaking work on behalf of Bromsgrove District Council. The Overview and Scrutiny Board would receive an update on the impact of this work in due course and alternative options to working with contractors could be explored further by the Board, including the potential to recommend that new staff be employed in this field in future who could be commissioned to also provide this work to other Councils.
Reference was made to the attendance by Officers at meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board during the year. Whilst Members had been required by law to attend meetings of the Board in person in order to participate in the debate and vote on items, it was noted that Officers had been permitted to participate in meetings remotely. The suggestion was made that it would be helpful for more officers to attend meetings in person in future. However, Members also commented that remote attendance by Officers at meetings had been one of several mitigating measures put in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Whilst nationally Covid-19 mitigation measures were no longer a legal requirement, the illness remained endemic and remote attendance by Officers helped to reduce the risks of transmission.
Members were asked to note that Cabinet recognised the important role of Overview and Scrutiny in the local democratic process. Cabinet always dedicated time to considering the findings of scrutiny Task Groups and, where considered appropriate, endorsed scrutiny recommendations. However, there were also times where Cabinet would conclude that it was not appropriate to agree to some or all of the recommendations that were proposed by a scrutiny Task Group.
Councillor Hotham concluded by thanking other members of the Board for their hard ... view the full minutes text for item 23