Keywords: stock, wildlife, lion, Cecil, poaching, hunting Cecil the lion relaxing at sunset in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Between April – June 17, One in Five calls from the public went unanswered by Shepway District Council (SDC). In other words 20% of SDC’s customers were not listened to. That was 6,723 calls not answered. Temporary Staff costs have risen by 65% when compared to the previous financial year and B&B costs are set to break the million pound barrier for the first time, since records began.
The Overview & Scrutiny Committee (O & S) chaired by Cllr Peter Gane (pictured left) can go on site visits, conduct public surveys, hold public meetings, commission research and do all other things that they reasonably consider necessary to inform their deliberation, within available resources. They may ask witnesses, including SDC Contractors to attend and address them on any matter under consideration and may pay advisers, assessors and witnesses a reasonable fee and expenses for doing so. Given that, when will the committee call in anyone regarding the 20% of calls which went unanswered earlier this year, or the rising temporary staff and B&B costs?
Two of Shepway District Council’s Corporate objectives are:
Listening to local people & Delivering value for money.
How is that possible when they are not even speaking to 20% of of their customers?
Earlier this year Parliament via the Communities & Local Government Committee called for evidence from the communities of the UK to feed into its report on the Effectiveness of local authority overview and scrutiny committees.Our public face wrote to parliament to supply them with examples of SDC’s O & S committee’s failing’s.
In Parliament’s final report they recommended that O & S committees should have greater legitimacy and independence from the executive of all Councils. A key way of delivering this is to ensure that members of the public and local stakeholders play a prominent role in scrutiny. By involving residents in the O & S committee scrutiny, the potential for a partisan approach lessens and the committee is able to hear directly from those whose interests they are allegedly representing. Our public face who attends the vast majority of the Council’s public meetings, has never witnessed a member of the public, or an SDC contractor, giving evidence to the O & S committee in the last two and half years. Rather than only using the testimony of the council officers delivering the service, SDC could and should encourage our scrutiny committee to consider how the information they receive from officers can be better complemented and contrasted by the views and experiences of the customers and contractors of SDC. But will they?
A failing of the O & S Committee is so few of its members have the capability and training to interrogate the data – independently – which SDC produce. Therefore, we would recommend the members who sit on the committee receive training in excel, so they can interrogate the data SDC produce, independently.
We also note that earlier this year Cllr Susie Govett (pictured) at Full Council asked a question of the Leader of SDC, Cllr David Drury Monk regarding the amount of due diligence and consideration should be given to every item on the O & S committee’s agenda. On that occasion it was 588 pages for the committee to scrutinise and had previously been as high as 718 pages. Cllr Govett was right to ask such a question when so many members of the committee lack the ability and training to interrogate data.
And as for the Call-In powers the O & S committee have, many Cllrs we spoke to cannot even recall the last time any item was called in. According to SDC’s website this has NOT happened in the last two and half years.
So we ask Cllr Peter Gane, who is paid £5,294 per annum for chairing the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, to begin using the powers his committee have. We ask the committee to stop being an automatic rubber stamp for Cllr Monk and his policies.
We are sure the public would like to know they’re getting value for money. Also we suspect the O&S Committee is nothing more than a rubber stamping exercise which is currently not fit for purpose, as it continues to be the lion which has never roared.
The Shepwayvox Team