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Welcome to Scrutiny at St Helens Borough Council

What is Scrutiny?

Overview and scrutiny has been a statutory function for local authorities since the the Local Government Act 2000 put decision-making powers in the hands of a cabinet. The overview and scrutiny function was established to hold the 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 have 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 Borough.

Scrutiny councillors also monitor 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 (excluding the Leader) sit on the cabinet and all other councillors can be involved in scrutiny.

Scrutiny in St Helens

There are three overview and scrutiny committees made up of non-cabinet councillors, each with its own remit.

They are coordinated by and report to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, whose membership includes the chair of each committee as well as other non-cabinet councillors.

There are scrutiny link officers at senior management level to provide information and to act as a link between each scrutiny panel and the council departments.

Each year an annual report is produced that covers the work of Scrutiny during the previous 12 months. View our annual report for 2019/2020.

How to contact the Scrutiny Team

By Post: Scrutiny Office, Town Hall, Victoria Square, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1HF
By Email: scrutiny@sthelens.gov.uk
By Telephone: 01744 67 6277 or 01744 67 6276

Task and Finish Groups may be established by a scrutiny committee for the purpose of reviewing a service, policy or issue that affects the council, its residents or the borough. Evidence is gathered in a variety of ways, including:

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

When the evidence has been gathered, a report setting out recommendations is produced and presented to the relevant committee. 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. These include:

  • Attending scrutiny meetings, which are open to the public. Alternatively, all scrutiny meetings are webcast on the council website.
  • Sign up for the scrutiny newsletter by contacting the scrutiny team.
  • Respond to consultations or provide 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.

Within each work programme there is flexibility so that as the year progress, items can be added to the programme of each committee if the Chair and committee members are in agreement. Initial topics for each committee's work programme for 2020/21 includes:

Overview and Scrutiny Commission

Council Reset and Recovery; Budget Scrutiny; Procurement of Service Delivery from Third Parties; Council policy for dealing with abuse of staff; financial monitoring reports; and performance reports.

Adult Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee

Care homes response to the Covid-19 pandemic; Support for Staff in Residential and Domiciliary Care Settings; Suicide Prevention Action Plan; Impact of Covid-19 on Health Services; Social Work Assessment and Eligibility Criteria Briefing.

Children and Young People Services Scrutiny Committee

Children's Services Improvement Plan; Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; Impact of Covid-19 on Schools; SEND Improvement Plan.

Place Services Scrutiny Committee

ASB around Bonfire Night and Halloween; Town Centre Management and Regeneration; Fly tipping and Enforcement Action; Response to National Leasehold Motion; St Helens Library Service; Domestic Abuse.

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 12 councillors, including the three committee chairs. In addition, two Church representatives are voting co-optees on the commission. The commission works with the committees to agree an annual work programme and acts as a general interface with the Cabinet.

Councillors on the commission are as follows:

  • Councillor Mancyia Uddin (Chair)
  • Councillor Jeanette Banks
  • Councillor Robyn Hattersley
  • Councillor Michael Haw
  • Councillor Janet Johnson
  • Councillor Trisha Long
  • Councillor Terrance Maguire
  • Councillor Dennis McDonnell
  • Councillor Linda Mussell
  • Councillor David O'Keefe
  • Councillor Bisi Osundeko
  • Councillor Michelle Sweeney

Also on the commission are:

  • Mr D Thorpe - co-opted (Church of England)
  • Mr C Williams - co-opted (Roman Catholic Church)

This committee 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 CCG are making to local health services.

The councillors on this committee are:

  • Councillor Dennis McDonnell (Chair)
  • Councillor Tracy Dickinson
  • Councillor Carole Ann Gill
  • Councillor Janet Johnson
  • Councillor Trisha Long
  • Councillor Paul McQuade
  • Councillor Linda Mussell
  • Councillor Geoff Pearl
  • Councillor Kate Stevenson
  • Councillor Michelle Sweeney

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

This scrutiny committee 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 committee are:

  • Councillor Trisha Long (Chair)
  • Councillor Stuart Barton
  • Councillor Donna Greaves
  • Councillor Anthony Johnson
  • Councillor Dennis McDonnell
  • Councillor Linda Mussell
  • Councillor Bisi Osundeko
  • Councillor Lisa Preston
  • Councillor Teresa Sims
  • Councillor Michelle Sweeney

There are also five co-opted members:

  • Mr D Thorpe (Church of England)
  • Mr C Williams (Roman Catholic Church)
  • Ms A Kirman (Primary)
  • Mrs P Lawson (Secondary)
  • Ms J Leybourne (Special)

This scrutiny committee considers items relating to borough-wide economic development, the environment, regeneration, housing, culture, tourism, leisure and libraries.

The committee is also designated as the responsible committee for the review and scrutiny of crime and disorder issues, pursuant to the Police and Justice Act 2006.

Furthermore, the committee is designated as the responsible committee for flood risk management, and shall undertake its responsibilities under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.

Councillors on this committee are:

  • Councillor Robyn Hattersley (Chair)
  • Councillor Jeanette Banks
  • Councillor John Case
  • Councillor Tracy Dickinson
  • Councillor Carole Ann Gill
  • Councillor Paul Hooton
  • Councillor Pat Jackson
  • Councillor Paul McQuade
  • Councillor Damien O'Connor
  • Councillor David Smith

There are also two co-opted members:

  • Superintendent S Brizell (Merseyside Police)
  • Mr I Mullen (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service)

In July 2020, both the Environment, Regeneration, Housing, Culture and Leisure & the Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panels were decommissioned and their responsibilities transferred to the new Place Services Scrutiny Committee.

In July 2020, the Audit and Financial Monitoring Overview and Scrutiny Panel was decommissioned, with its responsibilities transferred to other committees. Responsibility for Financial Monitoring Reports passed to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, with responsibility for receiving Internal Audit Reports passing to the Audit and Governance Committee.

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

Current Scrutiny Committees

Overview and Scrutiny Commission

2020/21

Children and Young People's Services Scrutiny Committee

2020/21

Place Services Scrutiny Committee

2020/21

Previous Scrutiny Panels

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

2019/2020

2018/2019

2017/2018

2016/2017

2015/2016

2014/2015

2013/2014

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

2019/2020

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

2019/2020

2018/2019

2015/2016

2014/2015

2013/2014

Previous Annual Reports/Newsletters

Your suggestions count

Each year the Overview and Scrutiny Commission agrees a work programme which sets out the areas of work it is 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 choose 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 Borough.

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 James Morley.