The cancellation of the latest Isle of Wight council Scrutiny Committee has been slammed by councillors, who say more meetings are needed “rather than just cancelling at the whim of Cabinet”.
In normal circumstances Scrutiny meetings do not take place in August, but Chair of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Andrew Garratt, told News OnTheWight that time had been set aside in August as a holding meeting for any Covid-19 or other urgent business that might come along.
Garratt: “Staff putting in additional effort”
Cllr Garratt explained that all the Policy and Scrutiny Committee meetings, including an Audit Committee, had been held in July before (all touching on Covid-19 business) and that Group Leaders were having weekly virtual meetings with the Chief Executive.
He said staff have been putting in so much additional effort, over and above normal work,
“I took the view that on balance there wasn’t anything so pressing that it couldn’t wait until September – and if it was so urgent we’d obviously stand up an urgent meeting – it would allow those officers to feel that could get away and have some time off.”
Brodie: Need more meetings rather than cancelling at whim of Cabinet
Cllr Geoff Brodie, twice a former Chair of Scrutiny said,
“I’m not sure that cancellation of the Scrutiny Committee should follow naturally from a Cabinet cancellation. In my day – and indeed other previous chairs – Scrutiny had its own agenda, not just one set out by Cabinet. Is the Chair saying that there is nothing to scrutinise ? Nothing to hold the Cabinet to account for?
“How about the continuing highways debacle at St Mary’s? The Island Roads’ contract? Covid-19 recovery? The Floating Bridge? Housing proposals for Seaclose and all over Ryde? Budget shortfalls? I would say that they probably need more meetings rather than just cancelling at the whim of Cabinet.”
Stephens: Scrutiny should be actively setting its own agenda
Cllr Ian Stephens told News OnTheWight,
“I think that the IWC Scrutiny Committee has lost its way… the objective is not only to scrutinise cabinet activity, and follow its lead, as that is reactive.
“Scrutiny should be actively setting its own agenda, and seeking answers on performance and impact. Checking on achieving projected any outcomes and resultant pressures.
“The IWC Scrutiny Committee does not need to cancel meetings, there should be more at this time seeking out progress reports on Covid-19 measures, financial pressures and checking budget balances. The plight of the homeless.
“Only this week a tent exploded in a Ryde car park, are we supporting these people? Where’s the evidence?
Stephens: Tantamount to closing the shop for the summer
He went on to add,
“I know that when I was chair of Scrutiny .. we took independent witness from our service users and other providers. This is the work that should be undertaken.
“Cancelling meetings of this type is tantamount to closing the shop for the summer.. no business? It is critical to the Council and our Island that Scrutiny is driven and calling decisions to account.. sadly this cancelled meeting shows a lack of commitment by all involved, as I’ve seen no disagreement with the decision.”
Love: Democratic interaction already reduced by IWC
Cllr Karl Love told News OnTheWight,
“I responded immediately to the cancellation protesting against the cancellation as it is a vital mechanism which acts as an important safeguard ensuring there is additional opportunity for reflection and policy and report adjustments.
“This administration has already reduced the number and amount of democratic interaction which occurs at full county council meetings. There are fewer meetings with a crammed agendas resulting in long meetings.”
Love: Scrutiny meetings bring positivity and reassurance
Cllr Love went on to add,
“Scrutiny provides checks and balances and positive adjustments and amendments. There’; a great deal to discuss and be discussed. Our council needs to be transparent and inclusive and the scrutiny meetings facilitate better understanding of the public transparency. I simply don’t accept there is nothing to discuss when we are in the middle of a pandemic and financial crisis.
“Scrutiny meetings bring positivity and reassurance to the general public. We need to be inspirational and inclusive and I would rather see more meetings.
“Only by debating in an open public forum can we ensure that our council is providing best value for the people of our Island and the scrutiny is an added value mechanism which enables members of the public to ask questions and have their voice heard.
“Scrutiny is an important democratic process and there are many things to be scrutinised. I requested that the floating bridge be put on the agenda ASAP after hearing that it was going to be delayed back into service.
“Explanations given by Isle of Wight Council simply don’t stack up and scrutiny is an important process which can ask questions and require responses.”
Cllr Garratt said there was a very full agenda for the September Scrutiny Meeting, his last as Chair, on 8th September.
3.30pm 10th Aug 2020 – Policy meetings held in July (not week before)
Image: © Isle of Wight Council