Knowsley has also just adopted a one committee model and we are in the process of trying to make these new arrangements work. This has involved a shift from a five committee model (each with their specific remits, helpfully aligning with statutory requirements in terms of health scrutiny and crime and disorder scrutiny)
In summary our new structure is as follows:-
- Overview and Scrutiny Board (10 members including a designated Chair)
- Overview and Scrutiny Panel (28 members)
- 3 Scrutiny "themes" - Policy and Resources, Neighbourhoods and Wellbeing
- Lead and Deputy Lead Scrutiny Members designated for each of the 3 themes.
The Board comprises the Chair, the 6 Lead/ Deputy Lead Members, the Chair of our Area Partnership Board Coordinating Group (oversees Area Governance arrangements), the Chair of our Governance and Audit Committee and 1 opposition member (in line with political balance requirements). Co-opted Members will be invited to attend meetings of the Board, as and when matters related to their remit as Co-opted Members are included on the agenda for the meeting. When in attendance at such meetings, it will be at the Chairman's discretion as to whether they will be permitted to speak on matters deemed to be unrelated to their remit as a co-opted members. (The presumption is that such permission would be given but it is not automatic).
The Board is scheduled to meet 8 times during the muncipal year. Its first meeting (this month) will agree the scrutiny workplan for the year. Its last meeting in the year will review how things have operated, agree what should go in the Annual Report and look forward to shaping and influencing the 2012-2013 workplan. The remaining six meetings will be "themed" with each theme being allocated two meetings each.
2 weeks ago, we held a "workplanning session" involving all Board, Panel and Co-opted Members. This intensive session produced a list of 8 topics spread evenly between the themes (3 for Neighbourhoods, 3 for Wellbeing and 2 for Policy and Resources) on which in-depth reviews will be carried out during the year on a phased basis to spread the workload. Each working group will be lead by the respective thematic Lead/ Deputy Lead Members. The remaining working group members will be drawn from the Scrutiny Panel (we have set a maximum of 10 elected members on a working group membership) and the four members of the Board who are not Lead/ Deputy Leads, plus where applicable Co-opted representatives. The selection of working group memberships will be based on Members' expressions of interest and be decided following consultation with the political groups. It is likely that most Elected Members will be allocated to no more than 2 reviews in the year.
A link to our inaugural Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting agenda is provided below if anyone is interested:-
The agenda contains the draft workplan which sets out the phasing of reviews and the proposed topics for each scheduled board meeting as it currently stands. The
As you will appreciate, this is an arrangement that we are being asked to make work as effectively as possible. Unsurprisingly putting something like this into effect has thrown up numerous issues:-
- Developing an understanding of the new arrangements and how they are expected to work
- Convincing Panel Members that their "Panel" is not a formal body that will have its own meetings!
- Boiling the business/ responsibilities of 5 Committees down to 1 Committee (25 meetings - 5x5 - to 8 meetings)
- Fulfilling statutory responsibilities such as Health and Crime and Disorder scrutiny requirements/ obligations.
- Supporting Lead/ Deputy Lead Members used to having a Committee to chair in playing their new roles
- Supporting and guiding co-opted members through the minefield of the new arrangements when they already had difficulties with their role on the old arrangements.
- How are we going to deal with over-subscription/ under-subscription on specific working groups following receipt of expressions of interest?
- How can we strike the right balance in terms of the business at the scheduled Board meetings? How do we ensure time and space is allowed for participative and deliberative scrutiny and not slip into the comfort zone of nodding through items because it is easier that way?
- How do we harness that specialisms and specific interests that scrutiny members have built up over the years in the absence of a multi-committee arrangement?
- How do you build in the monitoring and assessment ofpreviously completed reviews to arrangements like these?
I profess that we don't have all, if indeed any, of the definitive answers to questions like these but are endeavouring to deal with their implications as best we can. Any shared experiences, suggested solutions would be much appreciated