The report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services is attached.
The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough Wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson, presented the report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services providing a review of the work undertaken by the Council’s four Scrutiny Groups during 2019/20. The Leader invited each of the Scrutiny Group Chairmen to deliver a brief summary of the work of each Group over the year.
Councillor J Wheeler, Chairman of the Communities Scrutiny Group, informed Council that the Group had experienced a very productive year during which they had looked at Young, Positive Futures, Carbon Management, Community Facilities, the Waste Strategy and Fly-tipping. He noted that Councillors had suggested a number of those topics and the officers who had brought information forward and supported the meetings were thanked, as well as members of the Group, and his supportive Vice Chairman, Councillor Bal Bansal.
Councillor Clarke, Chairman of Growth and Development Scrutiny Group also reported an interesting and varied year in terms of scrutiny. The Group had examined seven issues including Abbey Road, the CIL, the business support offering, vibrancy in local town centres, the management of open spaces, the effect of Covid-19 on local businesses, and customer service and digital transformation. Councillor Clarke commended the commitment of officers in supporting the Group, even under the difficult circumstances created by Covid-19, and thanked his Vice Chairman, Councillor Abby Brennan, for her support and the contributions of members of the Group.
Councillor Purdue-Horan, Chairman of Governance Scrutiny Group, reminded Council that a well-run council like Rushcliffe was not accidental; it took considerable hard work to achieve high quality outcomes for residents. He thanked the third parties that had presented to the Group over the year, the officers involved in supporting the meetings, his Vice Chairman, Councillor J Walker, and the members of the Group for their constructive questioning and dedicated action over the last twelve months.
Councillor Combellack, Chairman of the Corporate Overview Group, reflected upon what had been a challenging year for scrutiny both in terms of adapting to the new structure, remits of the groups, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The beginning of the year had seen comprehensive scrutiny training for all Councillors and the recent survey undertaken as part of the review of scrutiny had shown a significant amount of understanding and engagement. The Group had participated in the development of the Corporate Strategy, considered potential topics for scrutiny, and could demonstrate through customer feedback and performance that the Council was faring much better through the current health crisis. She thanked all Councillors and officers involved in scrutiny for their enthusiasm and participation.
Councillor Robinson reminded Council that scrutiny was a very important function of the Council and thanked the four Chairmen for their hard work during the year. He believed that the new matrix was an improvement and thanked Councillor Combellack specifically for re-energising scrutiny through her proactive approach. Councillor Mason echoed those thoughts in seconding the recommendation.
Councillor J Walker spoke on behalf of the Labour group and noted that scrutiny was an essential part of a functioning democracy. She endorsed the work of the Groups over the last twelve months and hoped to see scrutiny continue to evolve. She would welcome Cabinet member participation in the meetings to help Councillors understand why decisions were made, and would like to see a willingness to engage the public in scrutiny both directly and through interest groups.
Councillor Jones reported an improvement in the relevance and depth of topics under scrutiny last year and was pleased to see a good level of engagement from Councillors across all parties. Councillor Jones agreed with Councillor J Walker in that engagement of the public should be extended and looked forward to that over the course of the next year.
Councillor R Mallender was pleased to note that the changes brought in after the last election had settled down and were resulting in more effective scrutiny. He told Council that in his view the only recommendation made in the last review was for Cabinet to be more present at scrutiny to answer questions from the scrutiny group. He would also like to see more public engagement in scrutiny.
Councillor Thomas thanked officers and councillors for their contribution to scrutiny over the last twelve months. Although there was still some way to go, the process had become less inward looking.
Councillor Robinson thanked Councillors for their views and confirmed that members of Cabinet were available to attend scrutiny when invited.
It was RESOLVED that the work undertaken by the four Scrutiny Groups during 2019/20 be endorsed.