Agenda item

Annual Scrutiny Work Programme 2022-2023


The Board gave consideration to the report as set out on pages 35-70 of the agenda, which asked it to agree the Annual Scrutiny Work Programme 2022-2023, made up of the Scrutiny Work Plans of the Council’s five scrutiny committees.


A correction to the Connected Communities Work Plan was tabled, to replace reference to the former Interim Service Director for Economy and Regulatory Services with the current Interim Service Director for Planning and Regulatory Services.


A correction to the Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee (ESSC) Work Plan was tabled, to re-insert previously agreed wording under the 21st September 2022 Herefordshire Local Plan item:


“To consider the Herefordshire Local Plan 2021- 2041, which includes the planning framework for the county, housing provision, the economy, retail and town centres, infrastructure provision and the environment.


Specifically to consider:


a) Does the preferred spatial option lead to sustainable communities, including promoting active travel and reducing car journeys?

b) Is the rural assessment scoring system used for allocating housing development across rural wards robust and supported by evidence?

c) To consider the analysis of the public consultation on the Local Plan and the mechanism by which the consultation was undertaken”.


The Leader of the Council welcomed the consolidation of the individual scrutiny committee work plans into a single accessible document. The Leader noted, in respect of the Herefordshire Farming item on the Environment and Sustainability Scrutiny Committee (ESSC) Work Plan, that the identified themes and witnesses were confined to Herefordshire and suggested whether a broader approach may be worthwhile considering, with potential witnesses from organisations such as the National Farmers Union (NFU) invited to contribute. The Chairperson of ESSC noted that there was a balance to be struck in terms of how broad the outlook could be without losing focus, and suggested that the Leader could email him with his suggestions for consideration by the Committee. The Leader and the Chairperson also noted that the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee (CYPSC) Work Plan appeared to be ambitious in terms of the number of items included and queried whether officers would have the necessary capacity to deliver all of the reports that would be requested. The Chairperson of CYPSC said that the agenda plan was being reviewed in consideration of what could reasonably be delivered in view of current departmental pressures and its responsiveness to the Children’s Services improvement programme and reported that some items for the September meeting, following consideration, had been deferred to reduce the overall burden from the Committee’s work on the department.


Members noted that the items on the Annual Work Programme could be delivered through committee or also through Task and Finish Groups, where appropriate (Task and Finish Group work was not listed separately). It was also queried why historic Task and Finish Group material did not appear to be readily available. The Democratic Services Officer advised that whilst some Task and Finish Group material may not be in the public domain (as Task and Finish Groups were not formal committees), final scrutiny reports were placed in the public domain by virtue of their referral to the formal scrutiny committee upon completion, when these were published with the committee’s papers. It was, however, suggested that a centralised, accessible location for the deposit of Task and Finish Group papers may be useful and further consideration of this would be reported back to the Board.


The Chairperson raised the issue that some Scrutiny Work Programme items were being brought back to committee due to lateness of reports or missing information that had been requested and that there were historic backlogs backlogs of previously made information requests not having been provided, and it was stressed that the proposed Executive-Scrutiny protocol needed to establish a clear set of expectations on reports and information requests to scrutiny committees and that report requests made by the scrutiny committees should henceforth be copied to the relevant Cabinet Member so that they can retain oversight.


The Chairperson proposed that once the Board had agreed the Annual Work Programme a progress report to the committee should provide an update on any substantive changes to scrutiny committee work plan items during the municipal year.


It was resolved that:


(i)              Democratic Services be requested to report back to the Board on how historic Task and Finish Group material and reports might be made more accessible;

(ii)             Report requests made by scrutiny committees to council departments be copied to the relevant Cabinet Member for information and oversight;

(iii)           A progress report be provided and included on future agendas to update the Board on the progress of any matters arising from previous committee meetings, including information requested, tracking any recommendations made to the Cabinet and any substantive amendments made by scrutiny committees to their work plan during the municipal year.

Supporting documents: