Overview and Scrutiny
Overview and Scrutiny Annual Report 2021
Scrutiny provides opportunities for members of the public to get involved with the work of the Council.
Welcome to Pembrokeshire County Council’s Annual Scrutiny Report which highlights the work of our five Overview and Scrutiny Committees, during May 2020 through to June 2021. This Annual Report presents a new more succinct style which highlights the key aspects of Overview and Scrutiny over the past year
The Overview and Scrutiny process is an essential part of the Council’s democratic structure and governance framework. It plays a key role in scrutinising the delivery and performance of Council services and holding decision makers to account through an approach based on positive pressure and constructive challenge.
Despite the continued disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been another interesting year and throughout the report you will see that each of the five Committees – Services, Corporate, Policy and pre-decision, Social Care and Schools and Learning has has looked at a number of topics which are important to both ourselves as elected Members and to the residents we serve.
Since March 2020, Remote meetings have played a very important part in the ability to proceed with the Overview and Scrutiny process over the past year. Working from home has been challenging, but with regular training and practice meetings, Overview and Scrutiny has continued to progress and make important decisions. We would like to thank all colleagues for their contribution to the work of Overview and Scrutiny Committees this year, allowing for meetings to run smoothly and as normal as possible.
As Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees, we recognise our shared responsibility to work together to strengthen the Council’s governance arrangements through delivering value-added scrutiny. We aim to continue to demonstrate our shared commitment to focus on the issues which matter most to Pembrokeshire residents over the next 12 months.
- 32 meetings held
- In-depth enquiries - 13
- 22 Panels taken place
- Topics completed 8
- 8 Reports to Cabinet
- Call-Ins 1
- 17 pre-decision reports
- Recommendations accepted/partly accepted 8
- Scrutiny Report templates – reviewed and now provide emphasis to the purpose, scope and remit of the report
- Consistency– in the approach to Minutes across all Overview and Scrutiny Committees
- Focus – placed on the items of business for added value for the residents of Pembrokeshire
- Notice of Motions – reviewed to expedite referral to Overview and Scrutiny Committee
- Legal Representation to support the work of the Committee
Citizen engagement is an essential element of effective Scrutiny as it enables the 'voice' of local people and communities to be heard as part of the decision and policy-making processes.
There are a number of ways that people who live and work in the County can get involved. Forward work programmes are available on the Overview and Scrutiny pages of the Council’s website and are updated following each round of Committee meetings so that members of the public are kept informed of the work of the Committee. Residents are able to bring views on any topic under consideration by Scrutiny to a Committee’s attention.
Forms are available on the website to enable people to submit their views on any matter already due to be considered by a Committee or to suggest topics for consideration by a Committee. A protocol for speaking before a Committee is also available for those invited to attend to present their views
Contact the Democratic and Scrutiny Services team if you would like to find out more or access: Overview and Scrutiny
Attendance May 2020 - June 2021
- Corporate O&S Committee – 93.3% attendance
- Policy and Pre-Decision O&S Committee – 73.4% attendance
- Schools and Learning O&S Committee – 90.8% attendance
- Services O&S Committee – 92.4% attendance
- Social Care O&S Committee – 81.7% attendance
The Committee began the year supporting the safe re-opening of schools following an extended period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including scrutinising the Educational Recovery plans and offering advice as to which factors of the recovery process Members felt were of highest importance.
Constructive scrutiny was undertaken in relation to Child Poverty within Pembrokeshire which led to a full Members seminar being held where Members were briefed on the Authority’s poverty prevention agenda and were joined by The Children’s Commissioner for Wales who presented the Charter for Change and highlighted the increased number of children living in poverty as result of the global pandemic.
On receiving information that the County had seen a large increase in Elective Home Education since COVID-19 began along with the announcement that Welsh Governments had abandoned plans to provide additional support to such pupils, the Committee wrote to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and Education Minister to highlight concerns particularly in relation to the current legislation of which a positive response was received.
On receiving a number of school improvement recommendations following an Estyn inspection, the Committee commissioned the Estyn Action Plan Working Group which continues to support the Authority in progressing through the Estyn Action Plan and School Improvement plan and reports back to the Committee on a regular basis.
Councillor John Davies, Chair, Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee
‘Against all adversity, the work of scrutinising our Education Service continues in what has been a difficult and extremely challenging year for teachers and learners. Our thanks as a committee to all involved for going the extra mile in a year like no other.’
The Committee commenced the year by having oversight of the Authority’s Covid Organisational Recovery plans following the COVID-19 pandemic, which included scrutiny of the support given to the local economy such as the distribution of business grants along with redeployment of staff into essential recovery roles.
Following the roll out of the Authority’s new waste and recycling scheme and the closure of a number of Customer Service Centres the Committee scrutinised the knock on effect it had on Customer Services Performance, particularly in relation to phone line que times. The Committee made valuable contributions to improving the performance of the Contact Centre and also in relation to the roll out of the Digital shift.
On having the opportunity to scrutinise the Local Government Association’s Corporate Peer Challenge report, a number of concerns were raised regarding the Authority’s Overview and Scrutiny function, which led to a full Members seminar being facilitated by the Local Government Association to provide details of the findings and offer support in improving the function.
A Notice of Motion was referred by Council which saw the Committee consider the request for the Authority to reconsider the decision to cease funding for Town and Community Council Elections and although the motion was not adopted, the Committee made valuable suggestions on how the Authority could reduce the financial burden on Community Council’s which were being considered.
Scrutiny strategy group
Meeting of the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees and the Governance and Audit Committee with the Democratic Services and Scrutiny Team have met five times to ensure co-ordination and best practice can be shared between the Committees. Discussing future areas of work and the Forward Work Programme.
'Scrutiny … within the Authority is an important component that contributed to the operations of the Authority to progress with improvements Members and Senior Officers would need to work together and seek support from both the LGA and WLGA…' Interim Chief Executive and Chris Bowron, Corporate Peer Challenge 2021
Corporate Peer Challenge Review 2020 findings
presented to the Members’ Seminar - April 2021
- Whilst some of the council’s Scrutiny Committees are seen to be effective and making a difference, others are seen not to be operating anywhere near adequately enough
- Concerns about the effectiveness of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee were highlighted in particular but it is not alone
- Specific issues highlighted within the report:
- Meetings not being quorate, or at risk of it, in circumstances that couldn’t be described as exceptional
- The focus of Scrutiny seems unclear and there is no effective corporate work programming arrangement in place to … aid the work of the council in delivering for local people – both in holding the Cabinet to account and helping to shape and inform policy development
Summary finding: The status quo around what should and can be a key governance function and valuable asset for the council is completely unsustainable
Councillor Brian Hall, Chair, Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee
‘Even with the most unprecedented start to the year, we as a Committee have thoroughly scrutinised and offered contributions to a range of significant corporate functions and with thanks to Chris Bowron and the LGA have been assisted in making key improvements for the future. As the Chairman I would like to express my sincere thanks to both Members and Officers who have contributed to the organisation and delivery of the Committee over the last 12 months and look forward to more effective scrutiny in 2021-22.’
The Committee has scrutinised all aspects of services within Pembrokeshire including:
- Housing, Building Repairs and
- Disabled Facilities Grants,
- Covid-19 Recovery,
- Delivery of the Planning Service,
- Vandalism to the Authority’s properties and much more.
The Committee has received reports on the
- Flooding at Havens Head and Lower Priory,
- sale of Trecadwgan Farm
- Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Policy,
- Dog fouling across the County,
- Fixed Penalty Notice data,
- District enforcement
and have provided recommendations on approval or referral to Cabinet, Council or other professional bodies. The Committee has been at the forefront of ensuring that
members, Officers and departments of the Council remain responsible and accountable for their actions and that they continue to serve the residents of Pembrokeshire in providing the best service and value for money.
Lower Priory and Havens Head Flooding
Following a Notice of Motion from Cllr Stephen Joseph the Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee carried out an in-depth scrutiny of the Havens Head and Lower Priory Flooding issue. Residents had the opportunity
to address the panel at its inaugural meeting. This group met a number of times and concluded that the flooding was due to the lack of capacity in the culvert to carry the very heavy rainfall in November 2018.
Recommendations were made then made to Cabinet regarding funding and future development plans.
Councillor Rob Summons, Chair, Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
‘In these very uncertain times in which we currently operate, I would like to say thank you to all the officers and committee members for their forbearance in preparing and scrutinising the service element of this council’
The year began with the Committee reviewing the Authority’s Covid – 19 recovery planning process focussed on the significant efforts to reopen/ recommence those services that were most impacted during the lock down period, and supporting the unlocking of the local visitor economy. The Committee has also reviewed and endorsed some key strategies and Policies for the Authority which included:
- the Victim Support Hate Crime Charter;
- the Strategic Equality Plan 2020 -24;
- the Economic Recovery and Regeneration Strategy 2020 – 2030;
- the IT Strategy;
- Compliments, Concerns and Complaints Policy
The Finance Panel working group, which was set up to provide ongoing member involvement and engagement in the detailed and complex work required to develop the Council’s budget has continued to meet throughout the year meeting on six occasions since October 2020. They have looked at different areas of concern within the Council’s budget, which have included inviting Officers in from Policy and Pre-Decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee Adult Social Care and Finance in Education to provide a more detailed focus. The Committee established a Civil Enforcement Working Group to consider more closely a proposal of a mobile enforcement vehicle to address traffic safety concerns at schools. This Group has considered a number of options which has included case studies from other local authorities. The work is ongoing and outcomes of the group will be reported to the Committee in September 2021.
The 2021-22 budget was again scrutinised via a multi-channel approach. In January 2021 the five Overview and Scrutiny Committees considered the Outline Draft County Council Budget and provided feedback to Cabinet. Along with scrutiny by the Committees, the Authority also held two Members seminars and produced three public videos to encourage participation in the consultation. Generally speaking, the Committees recognised the financial pressures which the Council faced but also wished to support the working poor within the County so were supportive of a 3% increase in Council Tax, with the exceptions of Social Care who recommended a 5% increase and Policy and Pre-Decision who did not commit to supporting a specific Council Tax increase and requested that additional costings on a 3% Council Tax option and use of reserves from the Director and Cabinet Member be looked at.
Councillor Joshua Beynon, Chair, Policy and Pre-Decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee
‘The Policy and Pre-Decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee continues to influence all aspects of council business and I’m especially proud we’ve spent time focusing on equalities, regeneration and civil enforcement. These are all aspects of the council business that affect the residents of Pembrokeshire. We are always looking for individuals to step forward and get involved in scrutiny so I would encourage anyone to do so’.
Throughout the Covid – 19 pandemic the Committee has continued to review and scrutinise services relating to the care, support and well-being needs of children and adults in Pembrokeshire. Initially the Committee reviewed the Authority’s Covid Recovery Planning process and in particular focused on the community element through the work of the Social Care and Housing Recovery Cell. The Committee have been involved in the improvement of some key service changes within the Social Care Directorate which include the development of an in-house Council service provision in relation to domiciliary care and reablement; and the remodelling of day services for within Adult Social Care. Some of the key strategies and policies that have been reviewed and supported by the Committee over the last 12 months are the Looked After Children Reduction Strategy which seeks to improve outcomes for children in Pembrokeshire; the approach taken to prevention and managing demand management; and the Recruitment and Retention Strategies to support the recruitment of experienced social workers to both adult services and children’s services.
Councillor David Bryan, Chair, Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee
‘I am looking forward to resuming face to face meetings of the Committee after such a lengthy time of virtual meetings. We can then get on with the important task and finish arrangements and actually visit care homes to see how they are coping‘.
- Ensuring minimum disruption to the Scrutiny Function during the 2020 Pandemic with a full overview and scrutiny cycle up and running again by the June 2020 cycle to enable Member oversight of the Covid Recovery Plans.
- Contributing to a stronger and more robust decision-making and policy framework which fully represents the needs and concerns of Pembrokeshire’s Councillors.
- Oversight of educational outcomes and other relevant data to provide assurance that there is appropriate Member oversight and challenge of Educational Recovery from Covid, school performance, educational standards and outcomes for all learners.
- Reviewing past financial performance and scrutinising developing proposals around key strategic corporate planning arrangements to provide assurance that the Council delivers value for money within budget and that it meets its core statutory corporate responsibilities.
- The Improvement of some key services changes and oversight of key strategies and policies within Social Care.
- Targeted oversight and challenge of service performance and delivery
In September of 2020, the team joined ADSO a recognised membership body for Democratic Services Officers. This has provided a platform for sharing best practice with other Officers and to access information on new legislation/regulations, guides, good practice and training seminars. Jenny Capitao commenced studying in October 2020 to achieve the Diploma in Local Democracy, a professional
qualification as a Democratic Services Officer.
‘I am enjoying the challenge and am looking forward to starting my dissertation later in the year which will concentrate on the area of overview and scrutiny’ Jenny Capitao, 18 June 2021
- Develop support for our Scrutiny Members with a focus on self- evaluation; chairing skills; and scrutiny of performance data
- Ensuring that the Scrutiny Committees complete self-evaluation exercises as part of the process of preparing for the Scrutiny Annual Report
- Further encouraging of public participation within the democratic process through work programme setting and targeted communications
- As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider more innovative and effective ways of scrutiny, taking full advantage of technology
- Continue the good practice of undertaking pre-scrutiny of key decisions and to continue engagement with the relevant Cabinet Member and portfolio holder identifying opportunities for future scrutiny in line with the proposals of the Local Government & Elections (Wales) Act
- An introduction of Hybrid meetings to the Chamber providing a mix of virtual and in person meeting to encourage a more diverse range of Councillors and to provide inclusivity
- There will be a broad and diverse range of future Challenges relating to Education that the Committee will continue to scrutinise which will include the ongoing Educational Recovery, introduction of the new National Curriculum in 2022, the upcoming Schools Formula Funding Review along with the Estyn Action Plan and School Improvement Plan
- The Waste Working Group oversaw the implementation of a new Waste System to Pembrokeshire in 2019 and is to reconvene over the Summer to consider the public consultation and proposals on amending the level of provision of Waste and Recycling Centres – expected to be complete and reported back to the Policy and Pre-Decision Committee in September 2021.
- A task and finish group was established in January 2020 to consider the Quality Assurance Framework and provide assurance that the provision of residential care was robust and fit for purpose and that appropriate safeguards were in place to support and protect service users. The work of the Group, which was to involve visiting Care Homes, had to be suspended due to Covid restrictions; however, it is hoped that with the relaxation of restrictions this work can continue in the coming year
- Remote Meetings have enabled a ‘business as usual’ approach
- All Members and Officers received training and support to enable them to participate
- A Hybrid solution is ready for roll-out once lock-down restrictions are lifted
- Significant savings have been made in reducing travel, printing and postage costs contributing to the lower carbon agenda
Susan Sanders: Manager
Jenny Capitao: Officer
Lydia Evans: Officer
Jackie Thomas: Officer
Elieze Hinchliffe: Assistant
'I would also like to congratulate you and the Team for all that you have done to assist me in the past 4 years. You are always very helpful and it is much appreciated.’
Cllr. David Simpson JP, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council
'I would just like to thank you and your team for all the help and support you have provided to members during the recent, and indeed ongoing, very difficult times. You are all a credit to this authority and I’m sure all members appreciate your
efforts. Hopefully the next 12 months will be less fraught, but whatever happens we know we are in safe hands.’
Cllr. Kevin Doolin