Agenda item

Approval of the Scrutiny Annual Reports 2021/22

The report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services is attached.


The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough-wide Leadership, Councillor Robinson presented the report of the Director – Finance and Corporate Services providing a review of the work undertaken by the Council’s four Scrutiny Groups during 2021/22.  The Leader invited each of the Scrutiny Group Chairmen to deliver a brief summary of the work of each Group over the year.


Councillor Combellack, former Chairman of the Corporate Overview Group, reminded Council that on becoming Mayor, she had stood down as Chairman of this Group.  Councillor Combellack stated that she had found the position very rewarding and welcomed the more proactive, inclusive scrutiny regime, which was now successfully in place.  Council noted that the Group had scrutinised the impact of Covid-19, both on the Council’s staff, ways of working, delivery of services and residents, and she thanked officers for their hard work during such challenging times.  Councillor Combellack in particular thanked officers responsible for producing the Covid reports, which had been so extensive, that it had required two reports, to look at both internal and external factors.  The Council’s resilience throughout the pandemic was highlighted, and the Group had scrutinised the positive and negative aspects of the Council’s working practices throughout that period, with that analysis added to the Council’s Response Programme, should a similar event occur again.  Councillor Combellack advised that she had continued to meet with other councillors and councils via the virtual East Midlands Council meetings to exchange views and ideas. It was hoped that through training and improved communication, Councillors would have a better understanding of the value and process of scrutiny in policy making, including a simpler scrutiny matrix, which it was hoped all Councillors were using.


Councillor Combellack concluded by thanking all Scrutiny Group Chairmen and Vice-chairmen for their valued assistance throughout the year and wished them all the best in their roles.


Councillor Virdi, Chairman of the Governance Scrutiny Group referred to the importance of scrutiny in challenging and influencing how Council made its decisions, to ensure the continued delivery of high quality services.  Council was reminded that the Group had a broad spectrum of responsibilities to scrutinise, and actions taken to ensure the probity and soundness of the Council’s decision making.  Councillor Virdi stated that over the past year the Group had judiciously and robustly scrutinised the Council’s finances, approach to risk as well as other corporate issues, including the Statement of Accounts, Annual Governance Statement, Capital Investment Strategy, Annual Fraud Report, and Internal Audit and Risk Management reports.  Councillor Virdi highlighted key points in the report, which included the positive comments from the Internal Auditors that the Council had a substantial system of internal control in the highest rating, which was a significant achievement.  A positive Going Concern Assessment had been achieved; the Council had healthy returns based on its Capital Investment Strategy, the Annual Audit letter had provided reasonable assurance that the Council’s financial statements were free from material error, together with a positive performance on the Council’s commercial property portfolio.  Councillor Virdi advised that members of the Group had requested additional information to help improve Risk Management and any mitigating actions, to allow members to see how officers were making internal risk decisions.


Councillor Virdi concluded by stating that this had been another challenging year for the Group and the Council; however, he advised that due to the dedication of staff and Councillors, and careful management in previous years, the Council had managed exceptionally well, despite the exceedingly difficult circumstances.  Council noted that there were still uncertain times ahead, where the Council’s financial resilience would be tested, and it was encouraging to note that the appropriate governance measures were in place.  Councillor Virdi thanked his Vice-chairman, Councillor Gray for his support throughout the year, together with other members of the Group and officers for their hard work.            


Councillor J Wheeler, former Chairman of the Communities Scrutiny Group stated that the Group had considered a variety of topics including WISE: Environmental Crime Enforcement, the Carbon Management Plan and Police performance and resources in Rushcliffe.  The outbreak of Covid-19 had undoubtedly led to challenges for local communities; however, Councillor Wheeler advised that the Group had continued to monitor on-going projects undertaken by the Council.  Councillor Wheeler thanked officers who had supported the Group, all members of the Group for their active involvement and the Vice-chairman Councillor Bansal.


Councillor Clarke, Chairman of the Growth and Development Group advised that the Group had scrutinised many interesting topics, including the River Trent Footbridge crossing, which had involved liaison with the City Council, cycling networks, which had involved cycling groups and the County Council, and Community Infrastructure Levy updates.  In respect of Covid-19, Councillor Clarke referred to the considerable work undertaken by officers in administering the Government business recovery grants, and the plaudits the Council had received for that. Councillor Clarke stated that tree conservation had been considered and emphasised what an important issue this was.  The Group had also discussed planning communications, which could be a contentious topic for those directly involved, and it was therefore important to scrutinise it.  


In conclusion, Councillor Clarke thanked the Service Manger – Economic Growth and her team, other officers who had attended meetings, the former Vice-chairman Councillor Butler and other members of the Group.


Councillor Brennan added her thanks to all members of the scrutiny groups, noted the extensive work undertaken by them and seconded the recommendation.


Councillor J Walker, Councillor Jones, Councillor R Mallender and Councillor Shaw all added their thanks and endorsed the report.


The Leader, on behalf of Cabinet thanked Councillors for the committed and professional work undertaken by the scrutiny groups, and thanked officers for the considerable help and support given to those groups.  The Leader reiterated the fundamental importance of scrutiny to the Council, which was appreciated by all.


It was RESOLVED that the work undertaken by the four Scrutiny Groups during 2021/22 be endorsed.

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