26 June 2014

Update on Overview and Scrutiny


Last night we had our first Overview & Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meeting since the election. This is an update on how the meeting went.  I blogged last week about how I wanted to improve OSC by producing more real recommendations for improving services and making the proceedings of the committee more open.

We agreed a number of changes (including making progress on streaming meetings live online) and then set out our work programme for the coming year.  OSC will start by taking an in-depth look at the following:

-  School places across the borough
-  The implementation of free gym use and swimming
-  The council's procurement strategy (what services are contracted out and how is this done)
-  The detail of how Southwark Council will deliver on the pledge to build 11,000 new council homes
-  The quality and speed of responses to casework raised on behalf of residents.

We will also be looking at numerous other issues as and when they arise.  For example, next month we will be speaking to the independent investigator into the major works at Draper House.  In addition, Southwark's Cabinet members will be interviewed by OSC to ensure we keep a close eye on the policy areas in their portfolios.

There are also a number of major regeneration projects going on across the borough at the moment. Because of their importance, at alternate meetings we will include one of these regeneration projects on our agenda.

Finally, we are also going to be asking staff and members of the public to suggest scrutiny items via a survey which will soon be published.  Our view is that staff and service users are usually the first people to notice when things start to go wrong.  We hope that will give us even more to get our teeth into.

To start as I mean to go on, I also made sure we got down to the nitty gritty at the first meeting and we made a start at investigating one of our more in-depth topics:  the delivery of the 11,000 new council homes.  Following a detailed briefing from officers on progress so far, we questioned them regarding progress made on the action plan set out in the January Cabinet paper.  A crucial next step in the process is the setting up of a "Council owned vehicle" which can access and use all the funding needed to build the homes.  OSC requested that more details of the proposals came to us at our September meeting.

I'll now be working to sort out the agenda for next month's OSC and start gathering together evidence on some of our longer-term scrutiny topics.

Our next meeting is on 15th July and the agenda will be published soon.

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