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Welcome to Scrutiny at St.Helens Council

Overview and Scrutiny has been a statutory function for local authorities since 2000, when the Local Government Act put the decision-making powers in the hands of a cabinet. The Overview and Scrutiny function was established to hold this cabinet to account for its decisions, and to contribute to evidenced-based policy-making in the Council.

Often referred to as Scrutiny, the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny function looks closely at services and issues that affect local people and ways to improve them.

Scrutiny councillors have a responsibility as community leaders to involve local people in identifying issues of concern. They can then review these concerns by gathering information and making recommendations based on what they’ve found out. They are not restricted to Council services – they can look at anything that has an impact on the quality of life of people in St.Helens.

Scrutiny councillors also keep an eye on how the Council’s services are performing and whether targets are being met, and are able to make recommendations as to whether new policies or changes to existing policies would lead to better outcomes.

The Cabinet is the Council’s main decision-making body and Scrutiny councillors have a responsibility to oversee its work and can challenge its decisions. Unlike the Cabinet, Scrutiny councillors do not hold any decision-making powers.

Nine councillors from the leading party sit on the cabinet and all other councillors can be involved in Scrutiny.

  • There are five Overview and Scrutiny Panels made up of non-cabinet councillors; each has its own remit.
  • They are co-ordinated by and report to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, which includes the chairman of each panel as well as other non-cabinet councillors.
  • There is a Scrutiny link officer(s) at senior management level to provide information and to act as a link between each Scrutiny Panel and the Council Departments.

View our Annual Report for 2017/18.

How to contact us

Scrutiny Office, Town Hall, Victoria Square, St.Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1HF
Email: Scrutiny
Telephone: 01744 676277 or 676276

Task and Finish groups may be established by a Scrutiny Panel for the purpose of reviewing a service, policy or issue that affects St Helens. Evidence is gathered in a variety of ways, including:

  • Co-opted members
  • Written evidence
  • Oral evidence and internal with external and internal witnesses
  • Site visits
  • Research
  • Consultation events

When the evidence has been gathered, a report setting out recommendations is produced and presented to the relevant panel. Once agreed by the panel, it is submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission for approval. The report and recommendations is then presented to the Cabinet for consideration.

 

If you are interested in getting involved, there are many ways to do so:

  • Attend Scrutiny meetings, which are open to the public
  • Sign up for the scrutiny newsletter by contacting the Scrutiny Team
  • Respond to consultations or providing written evidence in relation to part of a particular scrutiny review
  • Offer to appear as an expert witness during scrutiny review meetings, when invited to do so

The 2018/2019 Scrutiny Work Programme has been completed, with some topics being worked on into 2019/2020.

Consultation has been undertaken on the 2019/2020 work programme by contacting council officers and partners.

Suggested topics have been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission for review in July 2019.

The topics for the 2019/2020 work programme include:

  • Overview and Scrutiny Commission - Council Communication with the Public, Procurement of Services Delivered from Third Parties
  • Health & Adult Social Care and Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Waiting Times for Mental Health Services, Assisted Living, GP waiting times, Wheelchair Services
  • Children and Young People's Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Education Health Care Plans, CAMHS, SEND Funding
  • Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Domestic Violence, Knife Crime, Neighbourhood Development
  • Environment, Regeneration, Housing, Culture and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Panel - Council's Use of Plastics, Decontamination of Land for Development, Outdoor Gyms

An update on the 2018/2019 work programme can be found in the Scrutiny Bulletin, Spring 2019.

The Overview and Scrutiny Commission acts as the general interface with the cabinet for all overview and scrutiny issues, reviews the council’s budget and forward plan, and identifies possible policy or strategy reviews.

It consists of 15 councillors, including the panel chairmen. In addition, two Church representatives are voting co-optees on the commission. The commission works with the panels to agree an annual work programme and acts as a general interface with the cabinet.

Councillors on the commission are:

  • Chair - Cllr Andy Bowden
  • Cllr Derek Long
  • Cllr Trisha Long
  • Cllr Linda Maloney
  • Cllr Dennis McDonnell
  • Cllr Bisi Osendeko
  • Cllr Charlie Preston
  • Cllr Lisa Preston
  • Cllr Pam Howard
  • Cllr Michelle Sweeney
  • Cllr John Wiseman
  • Cllr Mike Haw
  • Cllr Allan Jones
  • Cllr David O’Keefe
  • Cllr Donna Greaves

Mr David Thorpe - co-opted (Church of England)
Mr Chris Williams - co-opted (Roman Catholic Church)

This panel covers the provision, planning and performance of social and health care in services for older people and vulnerable adults across the borough. It is also responsible for reviewing changes that the NHS and PCT are making to local health services.

The councillors on this panel are:

  • Chair – Cllr Dennis McDonnell
  • Cllr Alan Cunliffe
  • Cllr Carole Ann Gill
  • Cllr Trisha Long
  • Cllr Paul McQuade
  • Cllr Gill Neal
  • Cllr Bisi Osundeko
  • Cllr Lisa Preston
  • Cllr Geoffrey Pearl
  • Cllr Linda Mussell

There is also a non-voting co-optee from Healthwatch – Brenda Smith.

This scrutiny panel covers the whole range of services relating to the provision of children and young people's services. Reviews such as Physical Activity in Schools, Support for Foster Carers and Children's Food Provision during School Holidays have been undertaken.

Councillors on this panel are:

  • Chair – Trisha Long
  • Cllr Andy Bowden
  • Cllr Pam Howard
  • Cllr Linda Maloney
  • Cllr Dennis McDonnell
  • Cllr Charlie Preston
  • Cllr Linda Mussell
  • Cllr Teresa Sims

There are also five co-opted members:

  • Mr D Thorpe
  • Mr C Williams
  • Ms P Lawson
  • Mrs P Burke
  • Mrs J Leybourne

This scrutiny panel considers items relating to crime and disorder to ensure we have a safe community. It has been involved in reviews such as Problem Debts and Loan Sharks and Domestic Violence, CCTV, ASB in Shared Public Spaces, and Partnership Working and Hate Crime.

Councillors on this panel are:

  • Chair – Cllr Michelle Sweeney
  • Cllr Dave Banks
  • Cllr Carole Ann Gill
  • Cllr Seve Gomez-Aspron
  • Cllr Pat Jackson
  • Cllr Paul Lynch
  • Cllr Geoffrey Pearl
  • Cllr Linda Mussell

There are also two co-opted members:

  • Superintendent Tami Garvey-Jones – Merseyside Police
  • Ian Mullen – Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service

This scrutiny panel considers items relating to borough-wide economic development, regeneration, housing, culture, leisure and libraries and environment. It has been involved in reviews such as Private Landlords, Victoria Park, Funeral Costs, Apprenticeships and Service Charges for Owner Occupiers in Retirement Villages.

Councillors on this panel are:

  • Chair – Bisi Osundeko
  • Cllr Alan Cunliffe
  • Cllr Robyn Hattersley
  • Cllr Joe Pearson
  • Cllr Charlie Preston
  • Cllr Mancyia Uddin
  • Cllr Mike Haw
  • Cllr Linda Mussell

This panel scrutinises internal and external audit activity and monitors and scrutinises the financial performance of the council.

Councillors on this panel are:

  • Chair - Cllr Derek Long
  • Cllr Andy Bowden
  • Cllr Gill Neal
  • Cllr Joe Pearson
  • Cllr David Smith
  • Cllr Michelle Sweeney
  • Cllr Mancyia Uddin
  • Cllr Rob Reynolds

Below are the Scrutiny reviews that have been completed over the past few years and Cabinet's responses to recommendations that have been made.

Overview and Scrutiny Commission

2015/2016

2013/2014

Audit and Financial Monitoring Overview and Scrutiny Panel

2018/2019

Children and Young People's Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel

2018/2019

2017/2018

2016/2017

2015/2016

2014/2015

2013/2014

Environment, Regeneration, Housing Culture and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Panel

2017/2018

2016/2017

2015/2016

2014/2015

2013/2014

Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Panel

2018/2019

2016/2017

2015/2016

2014/2015

Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel

2018/2019

2015/2016

2014/2015

2013/2014

Previous Annual Reports/Newsletters

Your suggestions count

Each year the Scrutiny Commission agrees a work programme which sets out the areas of work they are to undertake during the next 12 months. These focus on performance of council services, services provided by our partners and other issues of local concern.

Getting the work programme right is crucial for effective scrutiny and we need to make sure that we chose the right topics - those which will make a demonstrable difference and improve things for the public. We want to make sure that over the next year our work reflects those issues that matter most to people in St Helens.

Scrutiny has a very broad scope for the topics it can address and the approaches it can take to an enquiry, a single issue or decision might be dealt with over one meeting, whereas a review of council policy or a cross-cutting issue that involves external partners might take a number of months to conclude. There is no limit to the nature of an issue that Scrutiny Panels can choose to investigate.

Carrying out effective scrutiny takes a lot of time, commitment and effort so it is simply not possible to look at every issue. When choosing issues, scrutiny will consider whether it can make a real difference (for example whether recommendations could result in improved services).

As in previous years, we would like to give you the opportunity to propose areas which you think would benefit from scrutiny having a look at. All your suggestions will be considered when agreeing the final programme.

You can contact the Scrutiny Team at anytime throughout the year with your suggestions.

Send your suggestions to Sally Houghton