For young, whipper snapper backbench administration councillors (such as myself) or opposition councillors Scrutiny Committees offer us a chance to have our say. Perhaps not to set the Council’s policy agenda bit to tweak it at the margins – to offer warning shots or push for it go further and faster. Generally I have found such meetings positive and have come away with a greater understanding of how the Council works and the problems it faces and new ideas of what it should be doing.
But the scrutiny process could probably work better. The mentality should be that it exists to provide better services at lower cost to residents. That it is to identify where this could be done. To challenge the leadership of the Council to do better in achieving the aims they have set. Sometimes the reality is of passively "noting" reports produced by officers while proceedings are intermittently enlivened by partisan point scoring – despite few if any voters being in attendance to witness it.
Then there is the cost. How many Scrutiny Committee Co-ordinators does your Council employ? Does each committee really need a full time person – to book a room and take the minutes for eight meetings a year, filling up the rest of year with "training" and "liason meetings"? If these Scrutiny Committee Co-ordinators are getting their teeth stuck into relevant research work, for example benchmarking performance with neighbouring councils, their role in such large numbers might be justified. But is that really the case?