The Council’s four Scrutiny Panels are the main way of holding the Council’s Cabinet and senior officers to account for the policies they adopt and the way that services are run. They also have an important role in taking a broader look at issues that are important to Calderdale people and for making recommendations to Cabinet or to other organisations about those issues.
The new Scrutiny Boards have now each met once. This note gives a brief update on those meetings.
People Scrutiny Board
People Scrutiny Board met on 21st June and at a health themed meeting had a detailed discussion about the performance of Calderdale and Huddersfield Financial Trust. Issues around delayed discharge and preventing re-admission to hospital featured heavily in the discussions. The Board also discussed the priority issues for Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) over the coming year. A wide ranging discussion covered:
- lessons learnt from the Vanguard;
- the £9m cost of avoidable admissions; and
- reductions in grants to voluntary organisations.
The Board agreed to establish an Health Issues Working Party to look into these issues in detail. Cllrs Blagbrough, Miles, and Raistrick were appointed to the working party.
A small task and finish group of Cllrs Whittaker and Wilkinson has also been established to look into rehabilitation and recovery services for people with mental health. Calderdale CCG are about to open a formal consultation on these services and the aim is that Cllrs Whittaker and Wilkinson can give their views to the Scrutiny board when they discuss the CCG proposals formally in the autumn.
The next meeting will consider the provision of residential and fostering accommodation for Children Looked After. The Board will discuss the NHS Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The Board (and AHSC Scrutiny Panel before it) have wanted to give mental health issues some proper attention and this discussion will form an important context for that.
Place Scrutiny Board
The first meeting looked at the safety of tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. A deliberate decision was taken to NOT have a written report sent out a week in advance, as events in London and nationally were moving so quickly. This gave the meeting a sense of immediacy. The local Fire and Rescue Chief was there, along with the Group Operations Manager of Together Housing. Between them, they were able to update the Board on what was happening in Calderdale. The meeting happened as the results of testing on the cladding of three tower blocks in Mixenden was awaited. It was expected that they’d fail, which proved to be the case. Scrutiny was able therefore to talk about anticipated next steps and investigate how residents were being kept in the loop.
The Board met again sooner than expected, because a decision of Cabinet concerning the Local Plan was called in and looked at on 11th July. There was a good and wide-ranging discussion. The decision was released for implication following Cabinet Members’ agreement to extend the period of consultation.
The next meeting will look at the proposed Halifax Town Centre redevelopment and the Halifax BID .
Strategy and Performance Scrutiny Board
Like the other Boards, Strategy and Performance Scrutiny Board had a planning meeting immediately before the Board meeting. This was useful, but the 15 minutes allocated was barely enough.
The Board discussed the revenue and capital outturn reports and learnt from the Head of Finance that (in his view) the three largest financial challenges for the authority are:
- Increasing cost and complexity of children social care placements.
- Demand for adult social care and resilience of the market.
- Meeting the range and extent of savings targets required by austerity particularly given the impact on universal frontline services which are important to local residents.
The Boards conclusions were:
To keep a close eye on the level of Council balances moving forward, in view of current existing commitments and requirements, through until 30th March, 2020.
Capital outturn – actual spend compared to previous forecast – Piece Hall - £3.2m additional resources reserved within capital programme – delays and other necessary changes.
Impact of central government funding decisions in relation to adults social care and the health service.
Under the new arrangements, the Board is looking at the financial position of the whole Council and will be thinking about the circumstances in which they may suggest that one of the other Scrutiny Boards should give attention to an issue raised in these discussions.
The Board also discussed the annual performance report that had been considered by Cabinet a few weeks earlier. The key points from the discussion were:
Crime statistics (provided by West Yorkshire Police): Perhaps an area for Place Scrutiny Board to undertake some detailed scrutiny review work on?
Employment: Place Scrutiny Board again (suggestion put forward by Cllr Scullion, portfolio holder for some detailed scrutiny review work
- numbers in employment;
- quality of employment,
- where employment,
- links to skills agenda; and
- conversations with local inward investors.
Topics across the Boards: At the request of the Board, response put forward by Claire Broadbent, Performance and Business Intelligence Team Leader regarding potential topics in relation to performance information, the Boards may wish to consider as part of their work programmes moving forward:
- Adult Safeguarding;
- air quality;
- Parks and Green Spaces (and links to physical activity);
- housing and new homes;
- reablement and direct payments.
The Board has identified "commercialisation and income regeneration" as their first task and finish group.
The Council Leader and the Chief Executive have been invited to attend the next Board meeting to outline their strategic priorities. They will also be asked to talk in particular about their work at a sub-regional level in the Leeds City Region and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Councillor Scullion, who holds the Cabinet portfolio for business change and customer services has also been invited to discuss her priorities for the year. These discussions will help the Board identify priority areas where it should particularly scrutinise the performance of the Council.
The Board will also take a close look at the quarter one financial performance of the Council.
Contact the Scrutiny Support Team: