Enabling concerns to be heard
Over the year scrutiny panels looked at several issues which were of major concern to a particular group of people, who turned up in numbers when that issue was discussed. Their views are important and helped the panel make informed recommendations. Here are a few examples:
Calderdale Royal Hospital - Accident and Emergency provision
The Calderdale and Huddersfield Health and Social Care Strategic Review, Right Care, Right Time, Right Place is taking a root and branch look at NHS services and Council services for vulnerable people. This may well lead to a complete reconfiguration to hospitals in Halifax and Huddersfield. The Adults, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel has discussed this issue with health service managers several times during 2013/14 and – when Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group makes formal proposals for change – will scrutinise them rigorously with Kirklees Scrutiny.
Calderdale Flood Recovery Programme
High on the list of priorities for the Economy and Environment Panel was how those areas of Calderdale most affected by flooding in recent years, are being supported by the Calderdale Flood Recovery programme.
In June, we held our Panel meeting in Todmorden, which has suffered particularly badly from flooding. Before our meeting, we made site visits to Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden to see the work being done as part of the Flood recovery programme.
At Todmorden Town Hall, we heard from a number of individuals, businesses and organisations that had been affected by flooding and from partner agencies including Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency on remedial works they had done or were planning to undertake.
We then took time to review our findings from our evidence gathering session in Todmorden at our August meeting. Amongst other things, the Panel decided to ask the Flood Resilience Strategic Partnership Manager to look at the introduction of a prominent web page on the Calderdale Council website,which could provide regular updates to the public on the on-going flood recovery work.
Domestic violence and the White Ribbon Campaign
Over recent years Communities Scrutiny Panel has examined a number of issues, such as alcohol misuse, where one of the consistent consequences was domestic violence or abuse. We’d held a domestic violence review to look at this problem in greater depth. This was in the context of a general increase in the number of domestic violence incidents and crimes in Calderdale.
The review took place over an afternoon and early evening in May 2013. We took evidence from a wide number of people, including the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire and many partner organisations. One of these was the White Ribbon Campaign, which is an international organisation that asks men to pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women in all its forms. Its UK base is in Calderdale.
We heard that Calderdale Council had been a White Ribbon accredited employer for two years and that this accreditation was due for renewal. However, the Panel wanted to know what this meant in reality. If the Council were going to join a campaign to end domestic abuse, the Panel wanted to know that our own house was in order and we were doing all that we could to lead by example. As a large employer, it is inevitable that there are people who work for us who are victims of domestic abuse. It is equally inevitable that we employ perpetrators.
So we decided to have a further meeting, but this time purely to look at the Council as an organisation and what we were doing. We worked closely with the White Ribbon Campaign and also researched examples of best practice from around the country.
The outcome of this further meeting was that the Panel felt there was much more that we could be doing as an employer, and that a step-change was needed. There was also a determination that Calderdale Council should aim to be more than just adequate, but should lead by example because we feel so strongly about this issue. We made 8 detailed recommendations to Cabinet which were accepted in full.
We now have a domestic violence staff policy, senior members of staff as White Ribbon ambassadors, training packages being developed and hold a number of events throughout the year highlighting the campaign. This culminates in White Ribbon Day on November 25th each year, when the White Ribbon flag will be flown from the Town Hall.