01:00PM, Wednesday 30 June 2021
In an extraordinary meeting of the council on Tuesday night, opposition councillors from different parties raised concerns about overview and scrutiny (O&S) panels.
Cllr Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West) said it was ‘painfully obvious’ that overview and scrutiny does not work in its current form.
“Its real purpose is completely ignored in favour of ticking a box,” he said. “O&S is a waste of everyone's time and the administration knows it."
Cllr Helen Price (TBF, Clewer & Dedworth East) said that she ‘entirely agree(d)’ with this.
“There's too much overview and too little scrutiny. It seems to be quantity over quality,” she said.
"I do question whether individual members understand their role and understand the role of the panel. It is a broken system.”
Cllr Gurch Singh (Lib Dem, St Mary’s) said he had concerns that panel chairs were chosen to ‘cause as little disruption as possible for their leaders.’
“Some views locally here in RBWM are the scrutiny panels with conservative majorities protect the cabinet rather than holding them to account,” he said.
In response, Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green) said that his personal experience with scrutiny is that it is both thorough and instructive.
“If the right questions are asked in the right way, there's no reason (the panels) can't be successful,” he said.
“The structure works but panels are in charge of their own destiny.”
Cllr Stuart Carrol (Con, Boyn Hill) decried opposition councillor claims that the Conservative administration ‘hate scrutiny,’ calling it 'ludicrous, preposterous and absurd.’
Leader of the council Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said scrutiny has had some 'major successes' over the past 15 months and that he hoped that the council could work co-operatively to improve the process rather than ‘sliding into personal attacks’.
"Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Is overview and scrutiny fundamentally broken? No, I don't think it is. I think that's pessimistic viewpoint,” he said.
“I would like to think that we have never been more open and transparent. I think it's fair to say we've never been as candid about our finances, and never more candid about when we get things wrong.”
The race to get as many people vaccinated against coronavirus has ramped up in the Royal Borough and Slough amidst an ongoing rise in cases across the country.