Overview and Scrutiny Committees are a legal obligation but in Havering they’re pathetic. The remit is reviewing and analysing cabinet policy decisions. Committees are critical friends* offering an alternative to the ‘Group Think’ that dominates decision-making in political arenas. Obviously councillors should read their papers and be prepared to discuss agendas as well as initiate in-depth research through the ‘topic’ system
The committee has six members. The three Conservatives were absent on the 3rd December. The chair, Maggie Themistocli, neither attended or offered apologies. The meeting began in chaos. Eventually Cllr. Martin Goode stepped into the breach. Needless to relate he was inadequate. He’d missed the previous meeting on 18th September, which contextualises his lacklustre performance. Cllr. Matt Sutton, Conservative, missed the September and December meetings. (Perhaps he’s forgotten he ‘earns’ £196 a week for being a councillor?)
The agenda mattered. Havering’s policies on air pollution for example merited detailed scrutiny. They didn’t get it. Poor housing through multiple households is a scandal but the committee failed to meet the challenges presented. The huge report on School Parking Safety Measures** deserved a meeting to itself. No-one from the Administration was there. The officers must have been in despair.
It would be better if Administration councillors got on with what they are interested in: allowances. If the Conservatives just left the officers to get on with the job unhindered, Havering would have a better time of it.
* When are Overview and Scrutiny Committee going to call cabinet members to meetings to actually discuss policy with them?