17 Oct 2009

Lots of Scrutiny but how effective?

This week I've had several scrutiny meetings including Thursday night a 6pm to 10.30pm meeting and Friday a 5 to 7pm meeting. Next week I have another two hour long meetings with two heads of service......

Photo: Autumn is well and truly on it's way - love the colours and love the sunshine we've had

I have to question again how useful all this is....when it works it can work well, but our Thursday night meeting didn't - yes there were some very important contributions but overall the agenda was huge and some of the most important issues didn't get the time they warranted - furthermore after a couple of hours I know for me after a days work and rushing to get there for 6 my brain starts to frazzle as we get into the minutia of some of these reports....the discussions certainly went astray that evening - we need to take action to ensure that does not happen again - indeed I already have thoughts but that is for another time.

In terms of what we discussed well...the HRA account,legal services, quarterly reports with Heads of Service, street cleansing incl fly-tipping, an update on the planning inquiry and Stratford Park leisure centre - each one of those topics could easily take an hour - the last one mentioned did - we heard lots from Parkwood about their moves to improve cleanliness at the leisure centre - poured over charts and figures re cleanliness and visitor numbers - the new no shoes policy in the changing rooms - the press coverage - although as I noted they didn't mention the dramatic closure of the centre in the summer when chemicals got together that shouldn't - I am assured this cannot happen again. They also have a sustainability programme - more of that another time as I've already followed up on that for more details of future plans.

This summer the District Council invoked a clause in the contract with Parkwood to do a deep clean and get Parkwood to pay for it - it is wholly unacceptable that it got to that point - I welcome the Districts move to take action on this - it is long overdue time for improvements - we also heard that Parkwood are trying to improve - we have heard this before and seen improvements before but they slipped - I trust this time it is genuine.

There is loads more I could write about all of that but am happy to talk with anyone local interested - I should perhaps also mention the scrutiny sub-group meeting last night - on climate change - I have been elected chair - it was more of a scoping exercise that evening but very fruitful and I am enthusiastic about next moves and what might be possible - we'll see but time now for Farmers Market before all the donuts have run out...

2 comments:

Dorothea said...

"I have another two hour long meetings with two heads of service...... overall the agenda was huge and some of the most important issues didn't get the time they warranted - furthermore after a couple of hours I know for me after a days work and rushing to get there for 6 my brain starts to frazzle as we get into the minutia of some of these reports...."

My sympathies. There's a built in problem in local government, because elected officials work elsewhere, so are inevitably at a disadvantage in dealing with officers who work on these minutiae all day, every day.

Ever feel like you're in a local version of 'Yes Minister'?

Philip Booth said...

Yes I do wonder at the system - but without it there would be no scrutiny - especially as our press does virtually no investigations nowadays - anyway where scrutiny works it can work very well indeed - on the scrutiny inquiries I am now involved in we have the ability to call other experts and look at how others are managing best practice....it will be interesting to see how much of a role we really can have...

As for 'Yes Minister' I found this quote from Hacker: "In private industry if you screw things up you get the boot; in the civil service if you screw things up I get the boot."

The trouble is when the politicians screw up they don't go nowadays....