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Councillor calls for scrutiny improvements

A community leader has called for better scrutiny to take place at Cannock Chase Council.

Cannock Chase District Council

Scrutiny of decisions and policies was described as a “crucial aspect” of the authority by Councillor Charlie Frew, who put forward a motion at this month’s full council meeting.

He called for an Executive Scrutiny Protocol to be agreed, with cabinet members attending scrutiny committee meetings that are in their portfolio remit. His motion also proposed that the council leader or deputy leader should be expected to attend all scrutiny meetings where possible, and that cabinet members would have an opportunity to speak at meetings and scrutiny committee members be able to question cabinet members at meetings.”

He said: “I can’t say scrutiny has been particularly effective – I think it has to challenge and must challenge if we are to do our due diligence as councillors. I feel it is the duty of cabinet members to participate in scrutiny and ensure decisions and actions that are taken are appropriately understood by all members.

“Effective scrutiny functions enhance transparency and accountability of policy and decision making that takes place within this council, on the behalf of the residents in which we represent. The operation of scrutiny at Cannock Chase Council should be to a high standard, enabling elected members to take decisions, make recommendations and to scrutinise, where applicable, for the benefit of residents within our district.

“Scrutiny functions could be improved at Cannock Chase Council, and efforts should be focused on bridging the gap between the administration and wider council members, enhancing our overall ability as a council to scrutinise decision making and policy. The function of scrutiny should allow questioning of cabinet members, council officers and council partners to allow members to obtain additional understanding upon a particular matter and to make well informed decisions.”

But Councillor David Williams proposed an amendment to the motion, calling for the setting up of a working group to consider the development of a protocol “suitable to the requirements of Cannock Chase Council”. He highlighted that Councillor Frew’s motion made reference to an Executive Scrutiny Protocol for Melton Borough Council, as well as scrutiny guides produced by the Local Government Association and Centre for Governance and Scrutiny.

Councillor Williams said: “I’m compelled to express my concerns about this motion. I have read the reference documents and I’m concerned this motion will commit this council to a policy proposed for another council.

“There has been no communication with the leader, cabinet members or senior management team to express dissatisfaction with present scrutiny arrangements. We already have robust scrutiny arrangements in place.”

Councillor Frew accepted the amendment and said the working group was a “really good idea”. Fellow councillors went on to vote on favour of the amendment.

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