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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Brent Council's Scrutiny Committees

Tonight the Forward Plan Scrutiny Committee is meeting, the first committee meeting of the year. I went on a training course in Scrutiny before Christmas, and it led me to conclude that Brent’s Scrutiny arrangements need a complete overhaul.

One of the first things we had to do was explain what the arrangements were in each authority. As I described Brent’s arrangements, I thought to myself how strange they were. Essentially, they were drawn up in an Executive-focused culture, and don’t really get into the spirit of the legislation. Many councillors dislike the new arrangements, but I don’t see any prospect of them changing so we have to make the best of Scrutiny as it stands.

What I think Scrutiny should be aiming at is more engagement with partners, greater transparency and more scope to engage with the public. To do that, I think we probably need to completely remodel our Scrutiny Committees, perhaps along the lines of the Corporate Themes.
I suspect that there is little chance of any reform until after the local elections, however.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Councillor Powney, it surprises me , that it surprises you about the scrutiny arrangements. Although you have not been a councillor for long, you blog contents show that you do have a savvy of how things really are in Brent,
our dear borough, Brent has been living in this closed way for years, the transparency and openeness we all seek is a long way off, the culture has long been devisive and self serving, with senior councillors and indeed lead officers having their own particular sway in the way the council operates. This situation is not unknown to the great unwashed of Brent at we have lived under the jack boot of it's own particular abuses. I have ased via the freedom of information Act to receive minutes and other such access to information so as I can try and keep an eye on the level of abuse of process and public funds. I shall of course be looking to see what is your input and what you are doing at the council meetings. It is one thing dear Sir to see the issues and blog about them, it is another to stand up in full council and seek to have something done about these issues. I await to discover if you are a doer, or a talker. But be not under any illusion that ordinary residents of Brent don't understand what is going on, we have lived too long under it's many abuses not to. It is my opinion that you seem a bright young man and the fact you are doing your due dilligence snd seeking development training means you understand the need for constant life long re education. The job of councillor is a hard and thankless role for a serious individual. Those who come on board to abuse the system are the internal enemy of the righteous individual, and you as a young man maybe subject to their abuse of influence and internal political pressure. But my advice is stay strong and true to the principles you set out to embody and do not let the ok'd guard of self interested councillors take away the sincerity of your purpose. I beleive you can make a difference but you will feel the overbearing influences within your own Party, and within the structures and Officers of the council. You have unfortunately at present a very weak Leader of the council and he from my reading of the information supplied to me by Brent is incapable of making decisions, and is overly reliant on Officers for advice and decision making. This is never a good recipie for success, as Officers are concerned with expediant clearing of their desks and often take short cuts and less desirable avenues to do it, and where there is an important decision to be made are loathed to make one for fear of losing their employment, creating this vacuum of decisive action. Scrutiny should be high on your agenda for change, but beware you are stepping into s minefield both in Brent and in Labour party in Brent by trying to change this. Good luck to you anyway,

A. Walker Kensal Rise

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