Councillors will start to do more work in Scrutiny Committees this week with new changes to the process coming into force.
Wrexham Council’s Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee on Thursday will be the first forced to formally create their own recommendations from scratch using the new wording, the topic being a monitoring report over fixed term and permanent exclusions in schools.
Previously it was regular to see all but unchanged officer or lead member recommendations passed by scrutiny, however with the recent changes the councillors present will have to do some more work to respond to the new instructions:
“Recommendation: That Members of the Committee formulate their conclusions and recommendations based on the information in the report and the discussion at the meeting.”
It is expected that the meeting will note the report, thank officers and possibly request further details. Next week sees the Democratic Services Committee, which an earlier forward programme states will include the consideration of the IRPW draft report on their work programme. This is more commonly known as discussions of councillor pay and various pay levels – which could be the first challenging construction of recommendations by a committee.
Following the unusual issuing of a reminder email by the legal officer for Wrexham Council there will be added focus on the chair-persons of meetings over the running of the meetings, and conduct at the business end of recommendations, amendments and votes.
The change in wording of recommendations in reports follows a ‘clarification’ from the council’s legal officer after ‘apparent confusion’ at the scrutiny committee meeting earlier this month – that we reported on under the headline “Another shambolic end to a Scrutiny meeting at Wrexham Council”
The recommendations before that meeting are pictured below, which we wrote up as being accepted.
Due to the messy end of the meeting we asked, as noted in our report , Wrexham Council if there was any guidance in terms of what the legal process is formally for the intervening on recommendations by lead members at a Scrutiny Committee.
We also requested if there was a copy of the minutes made by the officers at the meeting, which would capture the recommendations tabled and the final votes. We also asked if there had been any complaints been raised over the meeting.
Ten days later a spokesperson has told us: “At the meeting on Wednesday, November 1st, members agreed to recommend that the Committee thank Officers for the report and the work to date in winding down the Communities First Programme; and to recommend that the Lead Member make representations to Welsh Government regarding the need for detailed guidance on the allocation of the Legacy Fund as a matter of urgency and seek clarification as to whether the fund is likely to continue post-2020.”
The above certainly reflects the flavour, direction and some requests from the meeting, however in our recollection we can’t recall a new set of recommendations clearly and specifically formed then approved, with the anger at the end of the meeting resulting from the lack of flexibility over the recommendations changing from as they were presented in the report.
Wrexham Council point out the next stage in the process, with councillors on the committee due to approve the version of events as they are recorded in the minutes of the meeting, which are put before vote to approve them as a correct record: “This is to be accepted as the minutes at the next meeting of the committee on December 6th”.
In response to our other related queries, Wrexham Council said: “No formal complaints have been raised due to the meeting” adding “Records of individual votes and those who propose and second recommendations at Scrutiny Committee meetings are not recorded in the minutes”.