Stockton-on-Tees Town Hall

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Scrutiny helps ensure that local people receive high quality services and involves the Council's Select Committees checking that the services and policies meet the needs of local people according to the Council’s own aims and standards.

The Council has five themed Select Committees comprising nine Councillors on each (politically balanced). Some Select Committees also have non-Councillor co-opted members.

Select Committees examine, review and challenge the work of the Council – in essence, a watchdog role. They cannot make decisions, but do make recommendations to the Council and other organisations.  


Executive Scrutiny Committee

Scrutiny provides Councillors who are not part of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s decision-making Cabinet the opportunity to review decisions, policies and performance that affect the Borough.

Scrutiny is a Councillor-led process which helps to ensure that the Council's services and policies meet the needs of local people according to the Council's own aims and standards. The Executive Scrutiny Committee co-ordinates the Scrutiny Work Programme, providing a strategic steer for the work of the Select Committees.

In light of events surrounding the ongoing global pandemic, the Executive Scrutiny Committee will receive regular updates on the Council’s response to and recovery from Covid-19.


Adult Social Care and Health Select Committee

Review of Hospital Discharge

The NHS provides broad guidance around hospital discharge and each hospital has its own discharge policy. There is a good track record of current local practice providing timely and appropriate discharge of patients, though some concerns have been raised around isolated cases of elderly family and residents being discharged from hospital without the appropriate support and care. This review provides an opportunity to check that current discharge arrangements are robust and whether any aspects could be strengthened.

A further related issue that has been highlighted involves circumstances where a person’s main carer goes into hospital and there is a need to ensure that the person left at home has the support they need. When their carer is discharged and may not be well enough to take care of them properly, it is vital that the Council’s Adult Social Care service is aware of the situation and can put any necessary safeguards in place.

In related matters (though separate from the above), this review will also briefly examine the impact of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic on hospital discharge to care homes, an issue which has gained national attention following the UK Government’s response to a surge of hospital admissions in March 2020.  This element of the review will focus on the national guidance, the process around hospital discharge to care homes, and any potential learning ahead of an anticipated second Covid-19 surge.

In summary, the overall review will therefore form two individual parts, with the first phase exploring hospital discharge to care homes in relation to Covid-19, and phase two resuming the review of those discharged back to their own home (not care homes).

Phase 1 of the review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in November 2020.

Phase 2 of the review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in April 2021.


Quality Assurance Work

As well as undertaking in-depth reviews, the Committee looks at a range of other information to keep an overview of performance. These include NHS Quality Accounts and Healthwatch reports, as well as visits to local health and social care services (note: visits are currently suspended due to Covid-19 social distancing guidance).


Children and Young People Select Committee

Review of Cost of School Uniform

This review will investigate issues raised by residents about the cost of school uniform and the opportunities locally to support parents in meeting those costs.

It is recognised that the Council has a limited role on this issue and it is largely a matter for schools. The focus of the review will therefore be on working with schools to identify the issues for them and for parents and identifying if there are options to support parents in meeting the costs of school uniform.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in December 2020.


Member Visits to Frontline Services

In addition to review work, Select Committee Members undertake a programme of visits to frontline services as part of their wider quality assurance work (note: visits are currently suspended due to Covid-19 social distancing guidance).


Crime and Disorder Select Committee

Review of Fly-Grazed Horses

Fly-grazed horses are those that are being deliberately allowed to graze on land without the landowner’s (private or Local Authority) permission – this can either be on a tether or allowed to roam free on the land. Whilst the Council currently deals with incidents for which it is responsible in a responsive and effective manner, there is currently no formal policy regarding fly-grazed horses.

This review aims to:

  • Establish the Council’s and other relevant organisations’ roles and responsibilities for fly-grazed horses on both Council and non-Council land.
  • Identify the extent of concerns across the Borough in relation to fly-grazed horses, understand the costs to the Council in undertaking its statutory responsibilities (and beyond), and ascertain any potential sources of future funding.
  • Aid in reducing service demand by considering more proactive means of addressing fly-grazed horses via education or enforcement options which may be used with horse-owners.
  • Provide conclusions and recommendations that will inform the creation of a formal Council fly-grazed horses policy.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in January 2021.


People Select Committee

Review of Public Consultation

Effective consultation with the public is an essential part of ensuring that the Council is able to serve the people of the Borough to the best of its abilities. Effective consultation on policy changes, service delivery and issues of importance to the people of the Borough is critical to the development and delivery of all aspects of the Council Plan. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the way we consult with the public is subject to regular review and scrutiny to ensure that it is working well. In addition, this is a period of great change, both in technology and service delivery, and the review would provide a timely opportunity to ensure that all innovations and developments in consultation platforms and channels are being considered and, where appropriate, adopted.

It is recognised that individual departments/service areas in the Council decide on what they wish to consult on. This review will consider the various options that are available to them when undertaking consultations, and seek to ensure that the effectiveness of these various options is maximised. The Council is also increasingly using a range of Social Media platforms for consultation activity. The review would explore best practice in this area and inform future policy and strategy.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in December 2020.


Place Select Committee

Review of Business Support and Engagement

The Council undertakes a number of business support activities across the Borough, from advice and guidance, to direct financial support. In recent years, the focus of this activity has changed, with a greater emphasis placed on targeted evidence-led support and creating a single point of contact (‘one conversation’) policy for businesses liaising with the Council. However, current challenges, largely around resources, have led to a concentration on reactive rather than proactive activity.

There are several thousand businesses registered within the Borough from micro (1-10 employees) through to large multi-national organisations. Each are important to the economy of the Borough and its residents, and the Council plays an important facilitation role in the sustainability and growth of these companies.

This review will examine the Council’s overall business support / engagement role, how this is utilised and viewed externally, and whether the necessary resources are in place to satisfy existing and future demand.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in December 2020.


Review of Planters in Residential Streets (Task and Finish)

There is currently no dedicated funding set aside in Care For Your Area’s budget for the maintenance of street planters. Some residents have complained that the planters make their street untidy, due to the lack of maintenance. When they were regularly maintained with flowering plants they presented a very attractive feature. However, in many cases now, they present the opposite effect.

Some of the planters are very overgrown with weeds, some with nettles and thorny plants, which could create a risk of injury to children playing nearby. Many attract antisocial behaviour such as rubbish dumping and vandalism. Dog faeces and more sinister items, such as needles, have also been dumped in the planters. On a few isolated occasions, bricks have been removed from the planters and thrown at properties and vehicles in the street.

This review will determine whether maintaining planters in residential streets is cost effective – and whether the balance between costs and benefits is currently right. It will examine whether the removal of planters would provide savings and reduce anti-social behaviour or whether a new approach, seeking third party or community involvement with a larger number of planters could give them a new lease of life. 

This review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in January 2021.


Other Scrutiny

A Tees Valley Health Scrutiny Joint Committee comprising the five Tees Valley Authorities exists to act as a forum for the scrutiny of regional and specialist health scrutiny issues which impact upon the residents of the Tees valley and for sharing information and best practice in relation to health scrutiny and health scrutiny issues. The North East Health Committee fulfills the same role for the region as a whole. Time-limited Joint Committees may also be established to respond to consultation on changes to local health services, as and when needed.

Scrutiny support is also provided to the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel whose remit is to be the scrutiny body with a range of statutory duties, and the responsibility for scrutinising and supporting the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner’s activities over a range of policy areas.  

For further information on our Select Committees, including copies of final reports, please visit our egenda Council Meetings and Papers page or telephone 01642 528158.