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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Brent Council Thinks Again on Scrutiny

Brent Council's next full meeting is discussing changing its scrutiny structure.  To those of us who have been interested in Scrutiny for a long time, it makes for interesting reading.  I imagine the officer who wrote the report doesn't remember the history of Brent's Scrutiny over the past few years.  Speaking of the abolition of the previous scrutiny system in 2014, the report informs that:

"The purpose of moving to a single Scrutiny Committee meeting on a frequent basis was to enable a more consistent, holistic and streamlined approach to all scrutiny activities commissioned by a single committee."

At the time, I was highly critical of the 2014 changes to Scrutiny and what I thought were the reasons for them.  At best, I think an officer saw it as simply a way to cut costs to a legal minimum.  I think the other aspect was a craven fear of scrutiny on the part of at least some members of the Executive. 

Entirely predictably, the report notes that councillor involvement in scrutiny has drastically reduced, the effectiveness of Brent Council in dealing with external partners is much diminished and I think the internal scrutiny of the Council's own operations has been made ineffective.  I didn't realise that, as the report informs us, Brent is the only Council to have gone down the route of having only one Scrutiny Committee.  Still let us welcome the fact that someone, somewhere has thought it through again and tried to come with a scheme that lets Scrutiny perform its functions: to engage the public, to engage with partners, and internal improvements to the Council.   

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