The Chairman invited Councillor M. Thompson as Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to present the Annual Report for 2019/20. The Chairman also commented that should Members have any detailed questions following its presentation, these should be taken outside of the meeting.
In presenting the report Councillor Thompson highlighted a bit about the Committee and its work over the year. He explained that Overview and Scrutiny was a key part of the Council’s decision making process, which reviewed the Council’s policies, services and key decision. The Board had a politically diverse make up and its Members recognised the importance of considering alternative ideas and perspective in order to facilitate the democratic process. He believed the strength of the Board was in its diversity with a fair and objective view being taken in making recommendations. The role of the Chairman of the Board was very different to any other and what was within the report was very much the collective work of its Members. Councillor Thompson believed that every Member of the Board made an exceptional and committed contribution, with past and present task groups showing the quality of the work and the success of recommendations being accepted by Cabinet, was a testament to the Board.
Councillor Thompson went on to highlight a number of reports the Board had received and which were presented by both Officers, Portfolio Holders and outside agencies. He noted that many of the Council’s recent successes, such as the market coming back into the Council’s control and the replacement of CCTV, had originated with the Overview and Scrutiny Board in one form or another.
The current task groups were highlighted, including Library Closures, Flooding and most recently a review of racial equality in the Council. He further highlighted that this final task group had come from a proposal made by a Councillor who was not a Member of the Board and Councillor Thompson encouraged all Members to do this. Whilst the Council was under enormous pressure due to Covid-19 Councillor Thompson encouraged the Leader and Cabinet to use the Overview and Scrutiny Board to ensure the Council got the best standards from its services.
Councillor Thompson closed his presentation by thanking Members of the Board, both past and present, making particular reference to those Group Leaders who took an active role in holding the Council to account and Councillor J. Till for her role as Vice Chairman. He also took the opportunity to thank Councillor L. Mallett, the previous Chairman, who had introduced the Finance and Budget Working Group and Corporate Performance Working Group under his chairmanship. Finally, Councillor Thompson took the opportunity to thank the Democratic Services Officers for their help and support.
Following presentation of the report Members made a number of comments:
· The term critical friend was questioned as, from the report, it did not appear that any Members of the Cabinet had been robustly brought to account. Examples of areas which had not been discussed were given, for example the in-balance of social and market housing in the District and the consequences of the Section 24 Notice, which was still in place at Redditch Borough Council.
· There was no plan of what the Board would do in the future and how it intended to hold the Cabinet to account.
· The work the Board carried out was directed by the Members of the Board and they were all in a position to put forward areas for future scrutiny should they so wish. The report had been approved by all the Members of the Board, who had had an opportunity to add or amend it, before its publication.
Councillor R. Hunter took the opportunity to say he had very much enjoyed his first year as a Member of the Board and how he saw it as a very impactful group as its list of achievements showed. He added that he was also looking at areas around Council Tax Support and examining what if anything further could be done in this area.
The Leader took the opportunity to say that she felt good scrutiny lead to informed decision making and she passed on her sincere thanks to Councillor Thompson and all of the Board for the work they had put in. Those thoughts were reiterated by a number of Members and thanks were given to all Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Board. New Councillors had been welcomed with open arms and it was commented on how good it was to see Members from all parties working so well together for the great good of the District.