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Scrutiny

Scrutiny helps to ensure that local people receive high quality services. Facilitated through Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's scrutiny committee structure, it involves Councillors working with local people, the community, Council services and other organisations. The Council's Select Committees meet on a regular basis and also gather information through site visits and a range of engagement activities.

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 and its local partners. They cannot make decisions, but do make recommendations to the Council and other organisations.  

Read our overview and scrutiny end of term report for 2019 to 2023. 

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 and other local organisations' services and policies meet the needs of local people. The Executive Scrutiny Committee co-ordinates the Scrutiny Work Programme, providing a strategic steer for the work of the Select Committees - the 2023 to 2024 programme is scheduled to be confirmed in July 2023 following the recent local elections.

 

Adult Social Care and Health Select Committee

Review of access to GPs and Primary Medical Care

Accessing the help and advice of General Practitioners (GPs) and other professionals working in primary care general medical practices within the UK has long elicited a range of experiences and opinions. Exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent knock-on effect to all health and care providers, the ability to make contact with and then use such services in the context of changed systems, working practices and workforce capacity has further sharpened views on this topic.

The aim of this review will be to:

  • understand the existing local 'access to GPs' landscape in the context of national and regional developments around this ongoing issue
  • ascertain current systems for accessing general practice services, the communication of these to the public, and how effective they are, including any variations across the Borough's providers
  • determine any areas which may assist in improving the experience of the local population, and practices themselves, when individuals wish to contact and access general practice services
  • share any identified good practice within the Borough's Primary Care Networks (PCNs)

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in June 2024.

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. Visits were suspended due to COVID-19 social distancing guidance but will resume in the future.

 

Children and Young People Select Committee

Review of narrowing the gap in Educational Attainment

Covid and lockdown has had a disproportionate impact on educational outcomes for disadvantaged Children in our Care (CIOC) and Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) pupils.

Focusing on improving attendance and community support, the review will involve all stakeholders to create a shared vision and find solutions in a creative and innovative way. A scrutiny review will allow us to explore and spotlight the impact of what we already do, what new initiatives exist and what could still be done to maximise impact.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in June 2024.

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. Visits were suspended due to COVID-19 social distancing guidance but will resume in the future.

 

Crime and Disorder Select Committee

Review of outdoor play provision: Quality and distribution, maintenance, and physical accessibility

It is widely accepted that play is an essential part of every child's life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. Play facilities are therefore seen as an essential element to allow people to live healthy lives and help ensure activity is established at an early age, thus reducing long-term health conditions.

Previous analysis has indicated that outdoor play provision is uneven across the Borough, with significant variations in the play value, age and accessibility of equipment and sites. Many older play areas are in decline and, as is being felt by Local Authorities up and down the country, there is insufficient budget to maintain all the current sites.

In terms of new sites, the majority of these are established through planning obligations and consequently increase provision in areas where new development is taking place. Conversely, there are limited opportunities to establish or improve play areas in existing residential areas. In either case, it should be noted that all sites are subject to challenge relating to accessibility and play value.

The main aims for this review will be to:

  • examine the Borough's existing outdoor play offer in terms of play value and distribution, and identify locations where there is currently an imbalance in provision
  • ascertain who is responsible for individual facilities and what the management, maintenance and sustainability requirements are now, and are likely to be in the future (including revenue costs)
  • consider accessibility and inclusivity factors in relation to play provision so practical and financial implications are understood and factored into decisions around existing and future plans
  • contribute to future policy around play area provision, giving an appraisal of potential options

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in May 2024.

 

People Select Committee

Review of cost of living response

In response to the ongoing cost of living crisis, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (SBC) has introduced a number of initiatives (for example the Cost-of-Living on-line HUB, Warm Spaces, Food Aid Fund) to support the Borough's residents. 

This review will build on the 'Scrutiny Review of the Cost of School Uniform' which was undertaken in 2020 and the recommendations of the 'Scrutiny Review of Child Poverty' undertaken in 2022.

This review will consider Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's response to ensure the Council effectively supports the current and emerging needs of its residents, whilst also evaluating its current approach to inform and provide a steer for ongoing and future activity.

As detailed in the 13 July Cabinet report "Powering Our Futures - Delivering People, Place Economy", the Council is committed to the development of an Anti-Poverty Action Plan (to be co-developed with partners and those with lived experience). The plan will focus on how the Council can help prevent and mitigate the impact of poverty.  This review will inform the development of this plan.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in March 2024.

 

Place Select Committee

Review of domestic waste collections, kerbside recycling and green waste collections

Due to new Government legislation, councils will need to rollout mandatory weekly food waste collections by 1 April 2026. As a result of this rollout date, which also aligns with the start date of the council's new waste disposal contract, SBC's current waste and recycling collection services should be reviewed to ensure an efficient, effective and resilient service in the future.

Levels of recycling in the Borough are amongst the lowest in the country. The cost of the weekly collection of general waste is increasing rapidly. Food waste collection is likely to be a requirement in the coming years and a proactive approach could contribute to the Council's carbon reduction targets. The free collection of garden and green waste also benefits some communities more than others.

Overall, the Council's approach to waste reduction could be improved to reduce the financial and carbon cost. Therefore, this review aims to take into account the potential public resistance but also give appropriate consideration to the importance of the environment, the costs of service delivery, and the direction of national policy over food waste.

The review is scheduled to report to Cabinet in February 2024.

 

Other Scrutiny

A Tees Valley Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, comprising the five Tees Valley Local 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 fulfils 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.

In terms of crime and disorder, the Council is represented on the Cleveland Police and Crime Panel. The Panel's main role is to scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), review the police precept, contribute to the development of the Police and Crime Plan, and consider proposed appointments by the PCC.

Earlier in 2023, a joint working group was initiated by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council to investigate the high-profile mass crustacean deaths which occurred along the North East coast in late-2021. Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is a member of this group which continues to meet regularly.

For further information on our Select Committees, including copies of final reports, visit the Council's meetings, agendas and minutes webpage or telephone 01642 528158.