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 updates on the Council’s response to and recovery from COVID-19.
Adult Social Care and Health Select Committee
Review of Multi-Agency Support to Care Homes during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Task & Finish)
It is widely recognised that the last year has been a very difficult and sensitive time for all those employed within health and social care, and even more so for those individuals (and their families) who have contracted, and suffered from, Coronavirus. The Council (and its wider health partners) has long-established strong partnership-working principles, much of which has been tested to the maximum since the pandemic emerged. The need to adapt to the ever-changing COVID-19 scene has meant being flexible and innovative in terms of the support provided (sometimes within the confines of funding restrictions/uncertainties), and it is now appropriate to consider how any new approaches/practices have been received by local care providers.
This review will allow the Council and its partners to showcase the support provided to local care homes/nursing homes, as well as raise any previous or current issues/concerns. Such information will assist in further strengthening partnerships with local care providers as all agencies continue to manage the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Additionally, it may also help provide assurance to residents and their families of the measures that have been/are being put in place to safeguard all those within a setting.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in TBC.
Review of Day Opportunities for Adults
Through Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s (SBC) duty to provide services to people with eligible and assessed needs, day opportunities services have constantly evolved to meet local requirements and meet national guidelines. This includes services provided by the Council, commissioned through the independent or voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, and those people who choose to purchase their own support through a Direct Payment.
However, the profound and continuing impact of COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way the Council has been able to deliver this service during 2020-2021. In line with Government guidance, building-based day opportunities have been closed for extended periods throughout the pandemic, with building-based offers limited to individuals who have been prioritised by risk. As a result, the Council’s day services have developed new remote approaches to support the wellbeing of individuals – this has included offering online groups, wellbeing calls and other initiatives designed to help people stay connected. These changes have caused the Council, people who access its services, and key stakeholders to reflect and review what, who and how day opportunities are offered in Stockton-on-Tees.
This review provides an opportunity to consider and identify options for the remodelling of Day Opportunities Services, primarily to move away from traditional building-based ‘service-driven’ provision to a ‘needs-led’ community-focused service which clearly articulates the role of the Council, independent / VCSE assets, stakeholders and volunteering in delivering this model. Critical in any future planning will be the need to ascertain the views of service-users and their families / carers, particularly in light of the considerable impact that the pandemic-related changes to day services will have had on informal carers.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in March 2022.
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 Child Poverty
Child poverty rates are rising across the region. All 12 LAs, including Stockton, are included in the 20 LAs which saw the biggest increases between 2014/5 and 2018/9. Living in poverty has an impact on child development, attainment and future life chances.
The review will:
- Collate and analyse data
- Identify potential solutions
- Focus on a range of linked issues including digital divide, FSM eligibility etc.
- Review the approaches in other areas
The review will identify the key components of a family / child poverty strategy for adoption by the Council.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in May 2022.
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 Police Communications in Stockton-on-Tees (Task & Finish)
‘Effective communication shapes service delivery towards the needs of the public. Communication is broader than face-to-face interactions. It includes making information available about what the police do and how they do it. Communication involves interacting with communities, listening to their views and ideas and acting upon them in a way that improves police performance and service delivery.’ (College of Policing APP)
This local area-based Task and Finish review will focus on information-sharing and communications in Stockton-on-Tees between neighbourhood policing, local Ward Councillors, local residents and other key stakeholders. The review will seek to ensure that appropriate information-sharing mechanisms are in place with a view to strengthening effective partnership-working within the Borough.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in November 2021.
Review of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs)
Community safety in Stockton-on-Tees is of paramount concern to the Council, hence the continued prioritisation of resources in this service area. The Council is proud to have a team of Enforcement Officers, who exercise a wide range of powers in the execution of their duties, with the overall objective of ensuring a safe place for residents to live and businesses to flourish. Councils also know the issues that affect their localities the most and are well-placed to identify how best to respond. Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), introduced in 2014, sit amongst a broad range of powers and tools to help tackle anti-social behaviour locally, and are aimed at ensuring public spaces can be enjoyed, free from anti-social behaviour.
Used proportionately and in the right circumstances, PSPOs allow local areas to counter unreasonable and persistent behaviour that affects the quality of life of its residents. They can send a clear message that certain behaviours will not be tolerated and help reassure residents that unreasonable conduct is being addressed. However, PSPOs will not be suitable or effective in all circumstances, and it is important to carefully consider the right approach for identifying and addressing problem behaviour. The introduction of PSPOs in some other Local Authority areas around the country has attracted significant criticism – it is therefore important that any future use of PSPOs in Stockton-on-Tees is carefully framed, considered and scrutinised as to whether or not this is a viable option to consider.
The main aims of this review will therefore be to:
- Understand the requirements of introducing a PSPO and the process which needs to be followed.
- Explore further what a PSPO can be used for and whether the introduction of a PSPO in Stockton-on-Tees would have a benefit in reducing anti-social behaviour and crime in the Borough.
- Ascertain the benefits and potential challenges of introducing a PSPO within the boundary of Stockton-on-Tees, including benefits to the Council’s wider partners (i.e. Police, Fire).
- Investigate any new and innovative ways of using a PSPO to improve community safety and address key issues in our communities.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in February 2022.
People Select Committee
Review of Disability Inclusive Borough
The vision for the Borough set out in the Council Plan is that Stockton-on-Tees will be ‘a place where people are healthy, safe and protected from harm’ and ‘a place with a thriving economy where everyone has opportunities to succeed’.
Disabled people have been one of the most disproportionately affected groups by Covid-19 and going forward, it is important they are no longer marginalised and have equal opportunities to participate in the social, cultural, and economic activities within the Borough.
The main aims of this review will be to:
- Explore how Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council can contribute to being a more disability inclusive Borough.
- Understand how the Council communicate with and implement recommendations from disability groups and how this can be improved.
- Assess if the Council can improve services for those with hidden disabilities.
- Investigate the ways in which other local authorities have improved disability inclusion.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in January 2022.
Review of Local Government Pension Scheme (Task & Finish)
15% of the SBC workforce have chosen not to be members of the Teesside Local Government Pension Fund. The review will examine the causes of the fall in membership so that, as far as possible, any issues can be addressed and staff can be encouraged to put in place suitable pension arrangements.
Possible outcomes may include campaigns to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of the scheme or changes to the scheme to offer new arrangements, for example more flexibility.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in March 2022.
Place Select Committee
Review of Highways Asset Management (including Potholes and Flooding)
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s (SBC) Highways Infrastructure Asset is the Council’s most valuable asset and currently totals in excess of £1.7 billion.
The required steady state funding for the Highways Infrastructure Asset in 2020/21 was £9,551,000 and the actual funding received for the same period was £5,480,936.
Potholes are present on roads across the Borough, the presence of which are of increasing concern to road users, vehicles, and pedestrians. Surface water issues can also be problematic at locations across the Borough.
Therefore, this review will:
- Provide an overview of the responsibilities and challenges in managing the Highways Infrastructure Asset.
- Include a focus on potholes and surface water flooding as areas of concern.
- Explain how funding is allocated for highways infrastructure asset management and how this funding has changed over previous years.
- Assess how climate change has and will impact the condition of the Borough’s highways infrastructure assets.
- Evaluate the opportunities for maintaining the Highways Infrastructure Asset as efficiently as possible, both now and in the future.
The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in December 2021.
A Tees Valley Joint Health Scrutiny 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.