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Article date - 03 July 2018
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 council Cabinet.
St Helens Council has five panels with eight councillors on each who - as community leaders - involve local people in identifying issues that impact the quality of life of people in St Helens. These issues are then reviewed by gathering information and making recommendations to Cabinet members based on the evidence they have found.
The panels are:
· Overview and Scrutiny Commission
· Health & Adult Social Care
· Children and Young People's Services
· Safer Communities; Environment, Regeneration, Housing, Culture & Leisure
· Audit and Financial Monitoring
A number of success stories have come out of the work produced by the Overview and Scrutiny committees over the past year which look to keep an eye on how services are performing, with a number of recommendations made to introduce new policies or changes to existing policies which have led to better outcomes.
In March 2017, the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel produced a paper which looked at food provision during school holidays. Members were heavily engaged in looking at the Holiday Hunger Scheme operated from within St Helens Baptist Church and recommended that provision was to be targeted at those who needed it most and marketed effectively, taking into account appropriate lead time.
While in a bid to control the escalating prices of funeral costs, the Environment, Regeneration, Housing, Culture and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Panel worked closely with the St Helens Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to establish a fairer funerals pledge with local funeral directors – and produce a one stop leaflet for bereaved families, containing details of organising a funeral, expected costs and general contact numbers.
"Scrutiny serves an important role in the council as we can help to make sure services are effective and efficient,” said Councillor David Baines, Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission.
“In the extremely challenging environment we find ourselves in at the moment - delivering essential services in the context of huge annual budget cuts - our role is arguably more important than ever.
Councillor Baines added: “We are currently setting our work programme for the 2018/19 municipal year, so please get in touch if you have ideas for council services you'd like us to consider for scrutiny.
“It was great to see the public at recent meetings of the recycling and waste review, and ideally we'd like residents to engage all year round. The vast majority of scrutiny meetings are public, so I'd encourage people to come along if they can."
St Helens Council Leader Derek Long said: “Scrutiny is a key part of our council’s work. As an open council, we encourage all residents to come forward with suggestions about the work of the council and other public bodies for our panel to consider.”
To get in touch with any suggestions you have for the panels, please call Scrutiny Manager Joanne Heron on 01744 676277 – or email firstname.lastname@example.org