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Agenda Item No. 5

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group: 7th November 2012

Democratic Services Committee: 21st November 2012

 

Report of the Head of Democratic Services

 

Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011: Draft Guidance and Regulations re Joint Overview and Scrutiny Arrangements

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To afford Members the opportunity of expressing views on draft guidance received from the Welsh Government regarding the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 ("the Measure") in respect of the establishment by local authorities of joint scrutiny arrangements.

Recommendations

That, in addition to any comments Members wish to make, the Welsh Government be urged to ensure that the final guidance is distributed as soon as practicable after the end of the consultation period.

 

Reasons for the Recommendations

To enable appropriate arrangements to be considered and the Council's Constitution to provide for such.

                                    

Background

2.             Previous reports regarding various components of the Measure have been submitted to Cabinet and the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).  Members will be aware that one of the many components of the wide-ranging Measure was the requirement for local authorities to establish a Democratic Services Committee.  That Committee was established at the Annual Meeting in May 2012 and has held its first meeting.  Given its remit as provided for under the Measure and given the nature of the Guidance / Regulations covered in this latest report, it is considered that the most appropriate fora for Members' views to be ascertained are the Democratic Services Committee and, firstly, the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group (with any views of the latter being reported to the Democratic Services Committee). 

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             On 1st October 2012 the Welsh Government issued a Consultation Document comprising draft Regulations and Statutory Guidance on Joint Scrutiny Committees and draft Statutory Guidance on Members' Annual Reports (the latter is the subject of a separate report on the agenda for the Democratic Services Committee).

4.             In terms of the legislative context, Section 58 of the Measure empowers Ministers to make Regulations to permit two or more local authorities to appoint a joint overview and scrutiny committee and to issue statutory guidance to which such committees must have regard when exercising their functions. 

5.             As far as the draft Regulations are concerned the main components relate to the following:

  • Appointment of Joint Scrutiny Committees (Regulations 3 and 5)
  • Membership (Regulation 5)
  • Appointment of Sub-Committees (Regulation 6)
  • Chairing (Regulation 7)
  • Access to Meetings and Documentation and Termination of Membership (Regulations 8 and 9)
  • Co-option (Regulation 10)
  • Reference of Matters to a Joint Committee (Regulation 11)
  • Responses to Reports or Recommendations of a Joint Scrutiny Committee (Regulation 12)
  • Notification to 'Designated Persons' of Reports and Recommendations (Regulation 13)
  • Exclusion of the Press and Public (Regulation 14).

6.             Attached as Appendix A is the draft Statutory Guidance issued by the Welsh Government in respect of the establishment/working of joint Scrutiny Committees.  In terms of joint scrutiny itself is concerned, the Welsh Government acknowledges that there have been some innovative examples of joint Scrutiny having taken place (e.g. Prosiect Gwyrdd, with which the Council is obviously closely involved).  However, such arrangements have not previously had 'formal' status under existing legislation.  The draft Regulations provide for such status to apply. 

7.             The Welsh Government's stated aim in relation to Section 58 of the Measure is to strengthen scrutiny arrangements through the promotion of collaboration and sharing of scrutiny expertise.  The provision for the establishment of joint committees is intended to make it easier to scrutinise the delivery of providers whose services cover more than one county, or to examine issues which cut across geographical boundaries. 

8.             The draft Statutory Guidance sets out, from the perspective of the Welsh Government, the following:

  • the benefits, for 'scrutineers' and partners of a joint approach
  • the importance of selecting the right issue for joint scrutiny
  • the criteria which should be taken into account when establishing a joint committee
  • the importance of scoping and project management
  • different types of approaches to joint scrutiny (e.g. ad hoc or longer term)
  • powers available to joint committees
  • what, and whom, can be scrutinised
  • the introduction of the scrutiny of 'Designated Persons'
  • call-in arrangements
  • appointment/membership/chairing of joint committees
  • officer support
  • forward planning.

9.             It is considered that the ability to establish formal joint Scrutiny Committees should be welcomed.  The Welsh Government's Collaboration Agenda means that local authorities will, inevitably, and increasingly, be working within a collaborative framework.  As such, the ability to effectively scrutinise evolving initiatives such as the Joint Education Service is important.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

10.        Some of the Measure's provisions will have resource implications. At a time when Councils' resources are under severe pressure the Measure may well increase workloads. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

11.        There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

12.        As set out in the Measure and this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

13.        None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

14.        These matters will have been taken into account by the Welsh Government in making the Measure.

Corporate/Service Objectives

15.        The Measure makes arrangements for changes to the political structure of local government in Wales and the way in which local government operates.

Policy Framework and Budget

16.        The terms of reference of the Democratic Services Committee include "To have regard to Welsh Ministerial guidance when exercising its function".

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

17.        This is an internal matter and no consultation has, therefore, been necessary.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

18.        All.

Background Papers

Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011.

Report to Cabinet: 8th June, 2011.

Draft Statutory Guidance issues by Welsh Government: 3rd February, 2012.

 

Contact Officer

Mr. J. Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services, tel: (01446) 709408

 

Officers Consulted

Managing Director

 

Responsible Officer:

Mr. J. Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services