Thursday, September 07, 2006


Overviewed and Scrutinised

Tonight I attended an Overview and Scrutiny commission at work. It’s nothing to do with being a Bury Liberal Democrat, just the confusing fact that I also work for a Council (a different one) and occasionally have to appear in front of O&S in order that the Councillors there can scrutinise the bits of the Council’s work that I am responsible for.

And tonight it was the “CPA Direction of Travel Self Assessment”, the rationale for which you can find out about here. Obviously I don’t want my meagre readership to dwindle to zero, and so I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that after an 8 hour working day, the last thing anyone needs is a three hour scrutiny meeting where my item was number 12 on an unfeasibly long agenda.

I am being a bit harsh about the agenda I suppose. It isn’t any longer than necessary, and it merely reflects the variety of Council work requiring scrutiny. It’s just that I know all about the issues because I work with them all day long, so I don’t need to sit through another briefing for the benefit of Members. And of course it’s not there to entertain me, but to inform the Councillors doing the scrutiny. But my bit was only a ten minute report, and I spent the rest of the evening staring menacingly at my watch and imagining painful ways to punish the succession of speakers who were delaying my return home for a much needed tea.

Still, it is all good knowledge-building for anyone interested in local government. O&S Commissions at all Councils are open to the public, who can raise questions to be asked at the meeting. It is the place where Councillors can scrutinise any aspect of the Council’s work that they choose, and hold the Cabinet and Council officers to account. And it is great to see the passion with which they do it. Members from all sides of the political spectrum are just as passionate about the people whom they serve as one another. It is a shame that more people weren’t there to see it. Public attendance was zero tonight.

I would recommend them though, to anyone interested in finding out more about their Council. They are a great way to see Councillors at “work” to, doing what they’ve been sent there to do, namely to make sure that Council Tax payers’ money is spent wisely for the good of the local area, and that residents get the services that they deserve.

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