Scrutiny gets off to a good start

2nd August, 2011

The first scrutiny meeting under the new system got underway last night. Kicking of reviews of the potential closure of elderly persons homes, the future of teaching English as a second language (ESOL) in the city, and the 0-19 review of education which is set to save £6-7million over 2 yrs. These will examine in depth whether or not we should be closing homes, what alternative provision might there be, and also looking at the council’s charging policy –  led by Cllr Paul Westley.  Cllr Sue Waddington will be leading on ESOL and will be looking at the impact on adult learning opportunities as a result of government funding changes. Cllr Ted Cassidy (AM responsible) produced a helpful paper that already showed the council was taking some action on this.

100 Days

We learnt from Deputy Mayor Palmer that of the “100 things to do list” 92 were complete or on target. He claimed that around 50% were making a real tangible difference, but could name only 3 that actually did this! And that the ‘Gold standard youth’ service promised at number 65 had been downgraded to an ‘aspiration’. None the less we were assured that the Charter for Older people at 11, would be in place before the end of the consultation on elderly persons homes. Good news was that the council’s use of consultants was continuing on its downward trend, although no savings figures were yet available. The solution to the problem that is New Walk Centre remains elusive and pledge 51 will not be completed in the 100 days along with 8 – extra care housing.


A great deal of noise has been made about the budget and lack of money in the council. This has been used by the City Mayor to justify; closing down Prospect Leicestershire, cancelling the replacement City Gallery, and deleting the post of Chief Executive. So it was disappointing to hear from the acting Chief Finance officer that many of the savings requirements put in place in last years budget were unlikely to deliver the money required to balance the budget. There were looks of growing concern of the faces of the Deputy and City Mayor as we were told that the ICT review had not even started, Procurement savings target not yet agreed, that the HR review (savings target £3.3m) is not likely to deliver that amount, the property review savings target (£1.4m) will not deliver that amount. Even more concerning is that we were not able to be told detailed figures for amounts saved so far, given we are 4 months into the year this is surprising. It seemed obvious to all that this was news to the City Mayor and his deputy, and it was questioned whether they had taken their eye off the ball. Why has the full senior management review not been implemented it was set to achieve a saving of £1.4m pa, compared with the saving of £900k pa from deleting just the post of Chief Executive? If we were to deliver these savings previously agreed, then is it possible that we might not have had to close the successful Prospect Leicester and could now be planning the opening of the City Gallery? We can’t be certain but the questions are germane. The committee agreed to receive a more comprehensive report at its September meeting.

What is scrutiny going to be looking at?

Members outlined areas they would be scrutinising in the coming months these included: Cllr Michael Cooke will be reviewing: the broader issues around the forthcoming changes to the NHS,  Public Health Work by the City Council,  Revisiting the Review of Adult Mental Health Services done last year,  Value of continuing the current joint arrangements with Leicestershire and Rutland plus: a public meeting to be held in the autumn, at which people will be invited to put forward their own concerns / ideas for reviews and last year’s rolling work programme to be revisited and possibly “repopulated”. Cllr Anne Glover will be looking at: the delivery of services in neighbourhoods and the information we provide to residents about services, as well as Community Policing: the likely impact of cuts in Police budgets on this aspect of Police work. Cllr Waddington; economic growth and employment, and job creation, she will ask Commission members what they want to look at when they are appointed. Cllr Andy Connelly will look at: Schools Admission Process,
Summer Play Schemes (Youth Services), and Capital investment to support and improve Adventure Playgrounds (Pledge 33)

An extra item

was raised Cllr Ross Grant on the issue of the government’s Prevent Programme with the City Mayor. Peter Soulsby gave assurances that he is developing criteria to assess whether or not this money will deliver the right outcomes for Leicester and is meeting with the Home Office to discuss it.

The meeting started with 6 members of the Cabinet but by the end the attrition rate left just the City Mayor and Deputy to hold their position. Mind you there was a great deal to cover as this is the first scrutiny that the City Mayor and his assistants have been subject to for 4 months.

Many thanks to all those who attended and contributed.

These are the views of the Chair and should not be seen as the views of the  Committee

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