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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 16/10/2001
Response by Principal Minority Group to the Proposal for Change to Overview and Scrutiny



ANNEXE 2
NEW CONSTITUTION SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP
REPORT TO EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE – 9TH OCTOBER 2001
RESPONSE BY PRINCIPAL MINORITY GROUP TO THE PROPOSAL
FOR CHANGE TO OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY

1. The Liberal Democrats do not support a complete change in the present structure of the Council modernising agenda at this stage of the pilot study. Some corrections in mechanisms, management and processes ought to be tried before the whole system is changed radically and we embark on what will effectively be another pilot. The complete change which the Conservatives are proposing is an overreaction to the perceived problems of the existing set up.

2. The current model we have adopted incorporates certain checks and balances which permit both the back benchers of each party and the members of the opposition to participate in the formation and flow of policy. There need to be opportunities to challenge and question at different stages of decision-making so that no councillor feels that they are nodding through or rubber stamping items that have not received exposure except to the Executive.

3. The Conservative proposal does not help to maintain a platform for constructive cooperation between groups; it leaves the capabilities of many councillors largely untapped; it will not permit the specialised knowledge that councillors acquire to be used in both overview and scrutiny mode; it increases duplication; it leaves any opposition with the power only to call-in, which, as a practice, will increase as the opposition searches for a means of expression.

4. Finally, the public will be even more confused than they are already and will understand only that the Council has become more political. If the administration were to change at the next election, a pattern of complete control by one group will have become that which will be followed in future years.

5. In the opinion of the Liberal Democrats, it is essential that the progress of major issues through the Council receives continuous attention by informed members of the various stages from policy formation through to implementation and subsequent monitoring. A “cradle to grave” approach for major issues is more in keeping with the Government’s intentions in the modernising agenda than the fragmentation proposed.

6. We also acknowledge that the present distribution of work between the three Overview and Scrutiny Committees needs adjustment. The range of subjects and the multiple roles performed by each of the Committees may require a fourth Overview and Scrutiny Committee.