Scrutiny under the microscope


Big Agenda for Last Executive Meeting before Election

Scrutiny looking to improve its Outcomes

When the Cabinet System was adopted by Trafford, there was a clear expectation that Scrutiny would be an influential and effective means of holding the Executive Members of Cabinet to account for the important decisions whilst allowing the routine day to day work to proceed without hindrance.

It’s not worked. The Centre for Governance and Scrutiny were invited to put Scrutiny under the microscope and have produced a quite damning report. Though it’s interesting that the Executive Papers describe the report as highlighting that the “Scrutiny function at Trafford is effective and that proposed changes are around process and procedure, rather than fundamental changes”.

It’s worrying that the Executive takes the above view. There is very little in the report from the The Centre for Governance and Scrutiny that should give them comfort. I think this is summed up in the report itself in describing how the Council views Scrutiny:

“Overall, the general view is that Scrutiny does a good job. However when asked more specifically about Scrutiny’s output and impact most Members and Officers found it difficult to point to consistent work that has made a real difference, or tracking recommendations that have been accepted and implemented.”

My personal view is that ‘Scrutiny’ should be a multi-faceted function, ranging from neighbourhood accountability through some sort of regular forum right through to oversight of the Greater Manchester provision of diverse activities whether they be Health, Police, Transport or Waste, etc. It’s sad that this scrutiny function across GM, but particularly in Trafford is in such a poor state. I don’t think it’s the fault of scrutiny members. Officers and to a degree, the senior politicians, have got such a firm grip on strategy, it’s very difficult to get into those firewalled areas.

It would be wrong to say that there are not good suggestions in this report but the very fact that accountability has so broken down, I’ve been dragged to the regrettable conclusion that we should follow Sheffield and go back to the Committee system.

Moving to a Modern Committee System of Governance – Sheffield City Council

Other Items on the Agenda

Leisure Strategy Review: Mainly Sale Leisure Centre which gets some investment. Stretford earmarked for a report in July. The thinking is that because the Urmston Leisure Centre improvements are considered to have gone well, that’s the model to pursue for the other centres. My worry is that Stretford and Sale are much older centres and whether it’s better to ‘improve’ or ‘replace’ is still a moot point for me.

Stretford Mall: Trafford hold the freehold – the lease that the joint venture of Bruntwood and Trafford has expires in 96 years. This is considered short for borrowing purposes and the report is about refreshing that lease.

GMCA Brownfield Grant – Sale Magistrates Court: Approval to enter into a grant agreement with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

WGIS Lifting Bridge: Approval of Agreement that provides limited contribution to running it.

FUTURE GOVERNANCE ARRANGEMENTS FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE : This is the replacement for Trafford CCG with additional focus on Social Care. It’s very much early days in terms of the relationship to Greater Manchester but the report sets out the details of governance arrangements for the Trafford system including: Locality Board (One System Board), Trafford Provider Collaborative Board, Trafford Clinical and Practitioner Senate and other relevant groups, forums and boards.

Future Commissioning Arrangements For Health and Social Care: See above, but somewhat more pressing.

Care Act – Urgent Measures Decisions Framework: Shows the parlous position we’re in with regard to Social Care. The report provides a summary of the current position across the social care system and based on the current pressures and needs across the sector, seeks approval to keep the contingency framework in situ to enable the Council to reach speedy decisions around the implementation of agreed urgent measures if the situation reaches a critical point.

Contract Procedure Rules : A regular renewal of the contract rules which operate across authorities attached to STAR. It includes a change to increase the threshold trigger for a one quote exercise for both Supplies, Services and Concessions and Works and Public Works Concessions from £4,999 to £9,999 which will make it easier to let out small contracts.

Report on Complaints Determined by the Local Government & Social Care
Ombudsman 2020/21

Budget Monitoring 2021/22 – Period 10 (April 2021 to January 2022) – There are never any shocks at period 10. The council calendar dictates that we panic in autumn and chill out in winter. Pretty much on budget. That said, if we could recruit the people we need in social care, we’d be in a different position.

Corporate Plan 2022/23 – Good and bad – children under 5 improving obesity rates. Adults with depression very worrying trends in Trafford. This dashboard is interesting but the corporate plan sits in its own bubble. The extent to which the corporate plan talks to everyday lives lived in Trafford is a another moot point.

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2 responses to “Scrutiny under the microscope”

  1. Emma Hirst Avatar

    You’re right about scrutiny. I just roll my eyes at the reports from Children’s services. They make statements with no evidence. The Corporate parenting Board is even worse.

  2. Andrew Gould Avatar

    Absolutely agree to the idea of going back to the committee system. It means that there are more eyes on a problem. There are varied levels of competence at exec level and it does seem that we rely too much on reports from consultants to support decisions rather than the common sense of elected members.

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