Agenda item

Forward Work Programme


Members received the Democratic Services Committee Forward Work Programme for 2020/21.

Concerns were raised in regards to the fact that four out of five Scrutiny Committees had yet to be re-established and meet to scrutinise items within their remits; Cabinet Scrutiny Committee was currently scrutinising items from all Directorates within the Council.

Officers stated that Councils across Wales had received a letter from the Minister asking questions in relation to scrutiny arrangements and responding to that letter provided opportunity to reflect on what Neath Port Talbot Council had done since the outbreak of Covid 19 which included:

·       Quickly established electronic version of the Urgency Action procedure, when it was not possible to call meetings. The Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees had been involved in this procedure from the start;

·       Throughout the pandemic the Council had tried to keep Members updated on matters by sending out bulletins and by recording briefings from the Leader and opposition group Leaders;

·       In June/July Neath Port Talbot were the first Local Authority in Wales to stand up a full meeting of Council. Also in this time, before the August recess, each of the Scrutiny Committees had a meeting to inform Members on what the Council had done so far in the pandemic and outlined the framework moving forward;

·       Arranged Scrutiny Committees in a workshop format, for September onwards, so that the individual Committees could identify what areas they would like to focus on; it took significant time to arrange these workshops as Officers within Democratic Services did not have a cycle of meetings to work around.


It was highlighted that going forward the Scrutiny Committees were going to meet on a slightly different footing due to current circumstances; however, a cycle of meetings had been established and it had been arranged for each Scrutiny Committee to have a meeting before Christmas, as well as additional meetings scheduled for the New Year. Officers confirmed that each Scrutiny Committee had identified the topics that they would like to focus on, therefore the agendas for those meetings will capture what the Committee themselves had decided; it was also important to note that that the Forward Work Programme which detailed the decisions that Cabinet were expected to take, would be looked at within the Scrutiny Committees and the onus was on the Committee to decide what they wanted to look at in terms of pre-decision scrutiny. Officers added that the Cabinet Boards would not yet be re-established due to workloads and capacity.

Another level of assurance was provided to Members, in that when Officers had identified that there were major decisions to be taken for certain services, advice was provided that these particular decisions could be dealt with within a Joint Committee between the Cabinet Scrutiny Committee and the other relevant Scrutiny Committee to ensure the Scrutiny Members weren’t disenfranchised. Officers highlighted that they were trying to obtain the right balance with meetings, taking into consideration the current service pressures and how the current circumstances had impacted staff capacity. It was mentioned that a review of the current model could be undertaken in the New Year, taking into consideration Members feedback.

The Head of Legal Services provided Members with context around the future agenda item on the Forward Work Programme ‘Establish Terms of Reference for Review of the Constitution’. It was stated that as Monitoring Officer, it was the Head of Legal Services duty to ensure that the Constitution was kept up to date and covered all the legal basis for any decision making within the Council; over the few months, it was anticipated that there would be some changes to the Local Government and Elections Wales Bill which would need to be reflected into the Constitution. Members were informed that over the past few months the Constitution had been updated to reflect new provisions, and in December Officers would be asking full Council to task the Democratic Services Committee in setting up a Task and Finish Group to complete a full review the Constitution, which would include making it more user friendly for the public. Members were asked to contact Officers if they wished to be part of the Task and Finish Group.

RESOLVED:     That the Forward Work Programmed be noted.


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