Better scrutiny for council?

SCRUTINY of Scarborough Council could be overhauled after Cabinet members approved proposed changes to the current system.

At the moment the authority is held to account by four overview and scrutiny committees including: human resources, corporate strategy, service performance and projects and partnerships.

But under the new proposed structure they would be replaced by four new scrutiny committees: communities, place, resources and well-being – each with between 10 and 12 members.

St John Harris, the council’s overview and scrutiny manager, said that the scrutiny system was introduced at the council 10 years ago and it was changed to the current system in 2006. He added: “Scrutiny has come a long way over the last 10 years.”

He added that the way the council was delivering services was also changing. He said: “The top down approach is being replaced by a more fluid arrangement.”

Mr Harris said that the workload under the current committee system had become uneven – with that the projects and partnerships committee expanding but human resources was too narrow.

He added: “The work may be carried out by sub-groups or it may be carried out by the whole committee.”

Cllr Tom Fox said that the current system had worked well but the council had to change because “what’s happening on the horizon is changing”.

And Cllr Bill Chatt said that, as the chairman of the Audit Committee, he took part in the discussions which led to the proposed changes. He said: “It was proposed to reduce it to three committees. Waiting for the report to come back will be good I’d like to see what the chairmen and vice chairmen think.”

Cllr Godfrey Allanson said that they had to get the structure right because they were so near the finish line. He added: “There’s a need for change and scrutiny will be more important.”

He said that choosing a simple and meaningful name for each of the new committees was also important. He said: “We don’t want it to be all gobbledegook.

“It has worked well and we want it to work better. We are at the finishing line – let’s not trip up.”

Cabinet members agreed that the council needed to chose the committee names carefully, to fine tuning of the eventual workload, that there should 12 members on each committee and the membership should be proportional to the make up of political groups within the council.

They also agreed that feedback should be sought from the current committee chairmen and vice chairmen.

The matter is due to be considered by the full council by the beginning of July at the latest.