Policy and Resources Select Committee Item 13
14 October 2008
Criteria for Prioritising In-depth reviews.
Report of Policy and Resources Select Committee Chairman
1.1. This report sets out the priorities for guiding Hampshire County Council Select Committees in the selection of topics for in-depth review and outlines the process to be followed when issues of concern are raised with a Select Committee or the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
1.2. The approach adopted draws on best practice in the conduct of overview and scrutiny and provides the route through which Local Involvement Networks (LINks) and other partner organisations (for example Hampshire District and Borough Local Authorities, NHS organisations and organisations that are representative of social care service users and carers) can raise issues for consideration by Select Committees.
1.3. It is essential that Select Committees work programmes reflect a range of different overview and scrutiny activities that are active and challenging to the organisation and other partners as appropriate. This work does however need to be proportionate to the resources available to support members activities and supportive of the corporate objectives of the County Council.
1.4. The recent review of the overview and scrutiny function of Hampshire County Council, linked with changes in the legislative framework relating to local authority overview and scrutiny, point to an increasing role for Select Committees, not only in holding the Executive to account, but also in informing and influencing the activities of other public sector agencies that impact on Hampshire residents. This wider remit, which will include capacity to respond to referrals from the Hampshire LINk as well emerging initiatives such as the `Councillor Call for Action' must be supported by a clear defined process for ensuring that the overview and scrutiny function is objective and constructive, adding value to the issues that are included in work programmes and proportionate to the resources available to support members in these activities. .
1.5. The recommendations included in this report support the Corporate Strategy aim of maximising wellbeing through the overview and scrutiny of local authority decision making and
services issues that impact on people living and working in Hampshire.
2. Criteria for Selecting Topics for In-depth review
2.1. The criteria set out in 2.7-2.9 below reflect best practice in the conduct of overview and scrutiny in line with the following principles set out by the Centre for Public Scrutiny:
2.2. "To provide a `critical friend' challenge to executive policy-makers and decision-makers"
_ clarity of purpose
_ constructive, robust and purposeful challenge
_ constructive working relationship with executive colleagues and including external partner organisations
_ openness, transparency and inclusivity in its actions
2.3. "Enable the voice and concerns of the public and its community"
_ ensuring an ongoing dialogue with the public to create an `accountability relationship'
_ representing and engaging diverse communities and addressing inequalities where they exist.
_ promoting public understanding of the scrutiny role
2.4. "Independent minded democratically elected members' should lead and own the scrutiny process"
_ champions of the value and potential for good public scrutiny as the vehicle for public accountability
_ active engagement of non-executive committee members in a scrutiny role
_ ensure adequate public accountability and community leadership
2.5. "Drive improvement in public services"
_ promote community wellbeing and improve the quality of life
_ harness public concern as a lever for addressing wider issues
_ co-ordinate reviews of policy and service performance in line with strategic objectives
2.6. Account has also been taken of the existing guidance for the Hampshire HOSC. Specifically:
_ capacity to influence and improve the service under consideration
_ timeliness and relevance to local health services
_ issues not under consideration elsewhere
_ issues not subject to other monitoring or performance management activities.
2.7. Topics for in-depth review by Select Committees should therefore be prioritised taking account of their capacity to:
_ contribute to the delivery of Hampshire County Council's corporate objectives
_ inform understanding of partnership working and delivery of the County Council objectives e.g. the delivery of the LAA and National Indicators or decisions taken by other agencies that affect local people.
_ respond to a major or Hampshire wide public concern
_ influence or improve services across Hampshire
2.8. It is essential that the topics selected for in-depth review are supported by members of the relevant Select Committee and reflect a Hampshire wide perspective. As a topic moves from initial scoping to a substantive piece of work members will agree clearly defined objectives/outcomes to be delivered and timescales. Care will be taken at all times to ensure that topics taken forward for in-depth review do not replicate other monitoring or performance management activities and do not duplicate work being taken forward within the County Council or by partner agencies.
2.9. Topics selected for in-depth review will not normally be based on individual anecdote/complaint or lobbying interests as other more effective routes exist for dealing with issues of this nature. Similarly it is expected that topics that move forward from an initial scope to in depth review will have a defined evidence base.
2.10. Individual Select Committees will be responsible for prioritising topics taking account of the criteria set out at 2.7-2.9, taking advice as appropriate from the Executive member(s) or other agencies subject to review.
2.11. The final decision on whether to proceed with a review will rest with the Select Committee Chairman.
2.12. Select Committee Chairmen will be responsible for ensuring that the P&R Select Committee is advised of topics under consideration for in-depth review and associated work programmes
2.13. P&R Select Committee will be responsible for ensuring that topics for in-depth review are able to demonstrate compliance with the agreed criteria and that there is sufficient flexibility across Select Committee work programmes to accommodate urgent or unplanned work.
3. Referrals from Partner Organisations
3.1. Hampshire County Council Select Committees need to be able to respond to referrals from partner organisations. It is expected that the current requirements for Select Committees to manage referrals from the LINk will be extended to include other local authorities in Hampshire and potentially other partner organisations. The HOSC already has in place arrangements for managing referrals of this nature based on existing national guidance and it is proposed that these form the basis for the agreed response of other Select Committees in order to provide a consistent approach across the county.
3.2. Select Committee Chairmen will be responsible for ensuring that issues referred to them by partner organisations are dealt with in a timely and transparent manner. The current statutory timeframes for responding to referrals from LINks is 20 working days (excluding week-ends and Bank Holidays). Arrangements therefore need to be in place to allow Select Committee Chairmen to respond to referrals that require a response outside the formal Committee meetings.
3.3. When considering a referral from a partner organisation for an in-depth review account will be taken of the priorities set out in 2.7-2.9. In coming to a view the Select Committee Chairman will to ensure that the following points are demonstrated by the referring body:
_ the issue is of significant concern to the community affected
_ the scope for action/resolution with the lead agencies or responsible decision makers has been exhausted
_ intervention by the Select Committee is proportionate to the matter being referred
_ there is evidence that intervention by the Select Committee has the potential to inform/improve service delivery
_ there is a potential county/area wide impact on local people
_ due process has not been followed in making a decision
_ the issue is not subject to alternative statutory arrangements (e.g. Licensing or Planning matters)
3.4. In responding to a referral the Select Committee will be mindful that decision makers may have to make decisions that are difficult and that, even following extensive engagement/consultation it may not be possible to achieve consensus across all sections of the community affected.
3.5. Other options for responding to a referral that does not require an in-depth review will also be considered by the Chairman, with reference to the criteria in paragraph. 3.3.
3.6. All referrals and the action taken will be formally reported to the relevant Select Committee at its next formal meeting.
4.1. The draft criteria are circulated for comment and feedback as follows
_ Policy and Resources Select Committee members
_ Cabinet and other County Councillors
_ Chief Executive and Corporate Management Team
_ Hampshire Link
4.2. The criteria are reviewed in 12 months taking account of any feedback received from Districts or other partner organisations .