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Overhaul for Shropshire Council scrutiny panels dubbed ‘not fit for purpose’

By Dominic Robertson | Politics | Published:

Shropshire Council scrutiny committees dubbed "not fit for purpose" are set for a revamp under proposals to be considered this week.

Members of Shropshire Council will be asked to approve a new structure for the authority's scrutiny committees - used to analyse plans, processes and council performance - at Thursday's meeting of full council.

The scrutiny system was criticised last year and was described as "failing to hold the authority to account".

New proposals recommend the creation of two scrutiny committees for 'performance management' and 'health', and three 'overview committees' for 'people', 'place', and 'communities'.

The overview committees will be focused on pre-decision scrutiny and developing evidence based recommendations.

Two full time officers are also set to be appointed to support the committees, and a review would take place after 12 months to evaluate how effective the changes have been.

A review carried out by the Local Government Association acknowledged that the current system is not working.

A report following the review stated: "There is a broad consensus that the function, as it stands, is not fit for purpose – a conclusion with which the peer team agree, and whilst there is a clear commitment to making it work, the best way to

progress this has, to date, been unclear."

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The review found that scrutiny committees needed to do more to focus on the views of local residents –although it acknowledged a desire to tackle the problems.

It stated: "The current scrutiny function tends to look at issues from the point of view of the council, rather than the point of view of local residents. It appears driven by the content of the forward plan, and members’ personal interests, rather than by broader local pressures. This disconnect means that scrutiny struggles to feel relevant to those involved in decision-making. There is a real appetite to improve this."

In describing the rationale behind the changes the council paper states: "The revised structure of overview and scrutiny seeks to provide renewed energy and focus. The objective is to provide all members with the opportunity to be involved in shaping and influencing how the council responds to challenges and opportunities, responding appropriately and effectively to the changes and development the council is making to develop the economy, sustain services and protect vulnerable people."

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