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Isle of Wight Councillor for Ryde East, Cllr Michael Lilley felt it was important that readers understood the extent of the work that had gone into attempting to call-in the Cabinet’s decision to scrap Local Area Coordinators. He sets out the process he went through and how his request were rejected Ed
I am writing to inform Island Residents that I have recently been working quietly behind the scenes in objecting to the IW Council’s Cabinet decision to cease funding of the Local Area Coordination (LAC) programme.
Many residents have objected to this decision and I felt it was important to put on the public record what other councillors and I that supported the LAC, have been doing.
This very substantial and detailed Call-In was rejected by the Monitoring Officer of the IW Council on the 21st November.
This decision has no appeal process and I felt it was important that the Call-In papers and Monitoring Officer’s decision were available in the Public Domain so the Island Community knows what were the issues raised against the decision to cease funding and also see the limitations of a backbencher in challenging decisions.
The reality is “I tried and I failed”, and I deeply apologise to my fellow citizens, the staff of the LAC programme and the people that have used the service that the Call-In was rejected.
The timing of events was as follows:
1. LAC Scrutiny – 6th November 2018 and Cabinet Meeting – 8th November 2018
A report by the Cabinet Member of Adult Social Care, Public Health and Housing Needs, Cllr Clare Mosdell, presented a report to Scrutiny recommending the cessation of funding for the LAC from 31st March 2019. She had previously reported without a report to the Policy and Scrutiny Committee for Adult Social Care and Health, and this Committee had recommended against ceasing funding.
Scrutiny on the 6th spent considerable time asking questions and concluded that the answers and evidence supporting the decision were not adequate and recommended to Cabinet that they defer the decision and at least fund a further year so there could be proper analysis of the evidence and consultation with health partners and stakeholders. I had written a six page letter prior to the Scrutiny Meeting with detailed comments, questions and recommendations. I further wrote by email prior to the Cabinet meeting.
“I am emailing you to ask you to seriously consider deferring a decision on closing down the IW’s Local Area Coordinator programme in order to allow a special scrutiny committee to be called to give the proper due diligence needed in making an extremely important decision.”
Although there was some recognition of my first letter in that my recommendation that they set up a Task and Finish Group for overseeing the process of review and transition of the LAC service, much of the letter was made no reference to. My second letter (email) was not referred to or had a response.
2. Decision – 8th November: Review of Local Area Co-ordination
- a) The Committee recommends that the Cabinet does not adopt the recommendations, either those contained in the report or the revised recommendations circulated at the meeting, as these have not been based upon the full information that was available and that a review of all such information be undertaken, and a decision taken at a later date when this has been completed.
- b) Any proposal to cease funding of the Local Area Co-ordination Service should not occur until 31 March 2020.
- c) The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, with the interim Director of Public Health, be requested to report to the Policy and Scrutiny Committee for Adult Social Care and Health on the processes for deciding upon, and funding for, the delivery and commissioning of both discretionary and statutory public health services.
3. Call-In – 19th November
This Call-In was based on evidence that the Cabinet Committee in making its decision to cease funding of the Local Area Coordination programme that there was absence of evidence to make an objective decision, inadequate consultations with stakeholders, the decision appeared contrary to policy and not in accordance with the approved budget.
In our view, there does seem to be a number of anomalies that indicate the decision was premature. There is no clear evidence that the Cabinet adequately took into account the observations, comments of the Scrutiny Committee held on the 6th November and the IWC Constitution (Section 7, p170) states that if this can be evidenced then Scrutiny can call-in the decision although it had scrutinized the LAC programme prior to the Cabinet Meeting that subsequently made the decision.
4. Call-In Decline – 21st November
The Call–In Procedure allows any decision of the Cabinet or delegated Cabinet member decision to be the subject of a call-in apart from:
An item that has already been the subject of the agenda item on the Scrutiny committee arising from the forward plan and observations were made to Cabinet and it is demonstrated that these were taken into account when making the decision.
I had argued that the IW Council’s current Corporate Plan states that one of its Core Values is “Transparent Decision-Making based on the effective use of data and evidence”. My Call-In was based on the need for greater transparency and more detailed analysis of the evidence behind the decision to cease the Local Area Coordination Programme so that a more transparent and objective decision could be made by Cabinet. The Monitoring Officer disagreed:
“Having considered all of the above, I do not consider that this matter can be called-in as it has been the subject of an item on the Scrutiny committee, observations were made to the Cabinet and I am satisfied that it is demonstrated that these were taken into account when making the decision. The decision can therefore be implemented.”
My Call-In is available below this letter so that you can see the questions my fellow backbenchers and I raised. I still stand by the words of the Call-In as follows:
“Overall, the perception provided to Scrutiny and Cabinet Committees by the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health implied there was inadequate evidence that showed the viability of the LAC programme and that there was a greater priority for funding for other statutory Public Health Services.
“There was either insufficient evidence or no evidence presented to either committees that substantiates these implications.
“A cessation decision has been made, but the process of travel to that decision has exposed flaws in the process including the objective balance of transparent argument for and against the decision. There is implication that the LAC decision to cease funding is not that the scheme didn’t have sufficient positive outcomes, but that the policy framework had changed due to new management (Hampshire County Council) within 2018/19 and their non-disclosed internal review triggered a need for policy change and that the LAC programme funds had to be redirected.
“This was implied at both Scrutiny and Cabinet meetings, but no substantive evidence was presented and in my eyes the inappropriate and non-substantive use of the words “clinically unsafe” prevented an objective decision being made. I believe that only a Call-in to Scrutiny can clarify the process and evidence behind the recommendation so that the Cabinet is able to make an objective and transparent decision based on all of the evidence.”
I will continue to ask questions and work with IW Council to make sure the people in the community that are losing a valuable service do have an alternative that rises out of the ashes.
The call-on application
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Response from Monitoring Officer