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

John Ward

Speech delivered to the full Council meeting on 7th September 2006

Thank you Madam Mayor.

I have been looking at this latest Comprehensive Perfomance Assessment report, Madam Mayor, specifically in respect of how Medway's Scrutiny function was judged. I quote what is probably the most useful snippet, on page 18:

"Scrutiny is particularly effective when working through cross party task groups formed to examine policy initiatives. The majority of recommendations from these groups are endorsed by Cabinet and incorporated in Council policies."
So there we have it, Madam Mayor: the value of Scrutiny (and of their Task Groups in particular) straight from the Audit Commission themselves, and no ifs, ands or buts about it˜anywhere in the report, in fact.

However, this is an appropriate point to make it clear to any members who do not fully understand this relationship that the Cabinet is not a slave to Scrutiny. These good people are not there simply to rubber-stamp all that comes to them from whatever source, and that includes the rest of us. For a start, Madam Mayor, I‘d expect them not to agree to the more overtly party political stuff that is sometimes included in Scrutiny recommendations to Cabinet; and there are other, sometimes complex, reasons why it would not be appropriate to go along with them.

So, Madam Mayor, just because Cabinet doesn‘t agree to a full hundred percent of what comes to them doesn‘t mean—as one or two of the more mischievous opposition members have tried to claim in recent months—that "Scrutiny isn‘t working in Medway".

Far from it! The system works very well, in the way it was always intended to work; and the CPA report, which also states that our scrutiny function "is improving", clearly agrees.

Listening to opposition group leaders is like a kind of "Victor Meldrew meets Albert Steptoe and Marvin the paranoid android"—all gloom and despondency. What‘s wrong with them, Madam Mayor? Any ideas?

They really don‘t seem to fit in with a Medway that is dynamic and moving forward: they appear to be hangovers from a now-dead past, and the people of Medway deserve a better attitude from their elected representatives, otherwise they‘ll no doubt want better ones next time round, i.e. this coming May, and who could blame them?

Thank you very much, Madam Mayor.

John M Ward (Councillor, Rochester South and Horsted)