Agenda item

Approval of the Scrutiny Annual Reports 2022/23

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


The Leader and Portfolio Holder for Strategic and Borough-wide Leadership, Councillor Clarke 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 2022/23.


In moving the recommendation, the Leader was pleased to endorse the important work undertaken by the scrutiny groups, providing challenge to the Executive, being a critical friend, whilst also undertaking equally important policy development, and he invited each of the Scrutiny Group Chairs to deliver a brief summary of the year.


Councillor Brennan seconded the recommendation and reserved the right to speak.


Councillor J Wheeler, Chair of the Corporate Overview Group for 2022/23 thanked officers for their support, in particular the Service Manager – Finance and Corporate Services, as the lead officer.  Councillor Wheeler referred to a key highlight, which was the introduction of asking Councillors to come to meetings to present their scrutiny matrix, which he felt made a key difference. Councillor Wheeler reiterated how important scrutiny was and hoped that all Councillors would play their part as it could make a real difference.


Councillor Virdi, Chair of the Governance Scrutiny Group advised that the Group had responsibility for and approved the Council’s finances, monitored its approach to risk, as well as other corporate issues, and its work could not be under stated.  Councillor Virdi referred to the importance of having a robust governance framework in place, which ensured that the Council remained accountable.  It was important that appropriate scrutiny and review was undertaken, to provide assurance to the auditors that the correct controls and processes were in place, and given the ongoing financial uncertainty nationally, it was vital that the Council effectively managed risk. The report highlighted the key areas considered by the Group throughout the year and progress made, and Councillor Virdi wished the new Chair, Councillor Edyvean and the Group, a successful year.  Councillor Virdi thanked his Vice-Chair, Councillor Gowland for her support, together with other Group members, partners who had attended meetings, and officers, in particular the Director – Finance and Corporate Services and the Service Manager – Finance for their continued support.  


Councillor Williams, Chair of the Communities Scrutiny Group, reported that the Group had covered a wide range of issues, which touched the lives of many residents, including the Sports Development programme looking at future activity and wellbeing, and highlighted the initiatives and achievements that had been implemented.  The Group had also looked at how the Council engaged with the community through the External Communications Strategy and the Customer Access Strategy, which highlighted new and improved ways to increase engagement with residents. Councillor Williams thanked his Vice-Chair, former Councillor Murray for her support, together with other Group members, for their invaluable input during meetings. Councillor Williams thanked the Service Manager – Neighbourhoods, as the lead officer, other officers who had attended meetings to present their reports and answer questions, and to Democratic Services for its support.  


Councillor Clarke, Chair of the Growth and Development Group advised that the Group had scrutinised many interesting topics, covering two areas of operation in the Council related to growth and to the Council’s function as the Local Planning Authority.  The Group had scrutinised a follow up report on Conservation Areas and sewerage infrastructure and discharge, which had involved inviting representatives from outside organisations to the meeting.  Councillor Clarke stated that the Covid-19 Business Recovery update had scrutinised the way in which the Council had supported recovery from the pandemic and had highlighted how quickly officers had responded to ensure grants were paid quickly. Councillor Clarke advised that the Group had scrutinised the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, together with other diverse topics, including hedges and hedgerows, and finally an update on the large development at Fairham. Councillor Clarke thanked officers for all their support, fellow Group members and the Vice-Chair Councillor Butler.   


Councillor Gowland thanked officers, the Chairs of the Groups, and partner agencies involved and requested that in future, any issues brought forward but not accepted were listed, to provide a record.


Councillor R Mallender thanked the Chairs for their comments and officers for their hard work and agreed with Councillor Gowland that it would be helpful to log all topics that came forward. Councillor Mallender made particular reference to the work of the Communities Scrutiny Group, of which he was a member, and referred to the Access Agreement for the Canals and Rivers Trust, and the importance of keeping and extending the water in the canal. He referred to the Carbon Management Plan, and the considerable work still to be undertaken. Council noted that some fantastic work had already been done to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint, and ultimately the partners that the Council worked with, and residents.  Councillor Mallender referred to the Environment Policy, which included extending hedgerows across the Borough, which in turn would help with biodiversity net gain, increase, and protect wildlife and green spaces.


Councillor Thomas thanked and acknowledged the improvements that had been made to the scrutiny process over the past few years and hoped that this would continue, and the responsiveness and the work of officers was also appreciated.


Councillor Clarke thanked Councillor Thomas for her positive, supportive comments and referred to the request for a list of topics not accepted to be included, and he confirmed that this would be investigated to find the best approach going forward. 


It was RESOLVED that the work undertaken by the four Scrutiny Groups during 2022/23 be endorsed.

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