Councillor on Medway Council
Speech delivered to full Council about the Overview and Scrutiny function

John Ward

Speech delivered to the full Council meeting on 20th April 2006

Thank you Mr Mayor.

I have again been pleased with the way that Portfolio Holders have appeared before Scrutiny, Mr Mayor, including two of them coming before Finance and Corporate Services in recent months, only one of which was in time to be reported in the scrutiny activity report we have before us this evening.

This is reported at 5.2 on the tenth page of the report, covering the attendance by the Leader of the Council, Councillor Rodney Chambers.

The fuller report on this that appears in the committee‘s own record of that meeting includes a very telling response to a question from me on the whole subject of scrutiny at Medway, and I urge all members to read it.

Essentially the Leader told us at that meeting that, despite the earlier phase of scrutiny at Medway when its members felt disenfranchised; now (under the present chairing arrangements) that it is making helpful pre-decision scrutiny contributions, Mr Mayor, this has changed and for the better. We are now taking further steps in order to raise our scrutiny function to an even higher level.

Furthermore, the Leader told us, we are now operating far closer to what the Local Government Act 2000 intended—scrutiny was not supposed to be adversarial, Mr Mayor, or the opposition to the Cabinet, though it does have within its remit the task of holding the Executive to account. That is accepted, provided it is handled appropriately.

I note that some opposition members still try to subvert the whole process for their own party political ends, against the intent of the legislation; but good chairmanship seems to be keeping this well under control, which (surprise, surprise!) wasn‘t often the case when the opposition parties were chairing the scrutiny committees themselves.

This is surely the real reason they resent not chairing scrutiny these days. Well, tough! If they weren‘t good enough, they can‘t be trusted with the job, Mr Mayor, any more than anyone in a similar situation elsewhere would be trusted.

As is well-known by now, Mr Mayor, my wish is for Scrutiny to work even better and harder for the people of Medway—not for any political party‘s own ends or any individual‘s personal ambitions. Those have no real part to play in scrutiny.

That‘s my "bottom line", and it should now—at long last—become the same for all members, especially those opposite.

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.

John M Ward (Councillor, Rochester South and Horsted)