Memorandum by Milton Keynes Council (LAG
Milton Keynes Council has not yet implemented
any change to its political management structure and is currently
in consultation with the public on the three Model Structures.
While sharing the hope for greater efficiency in decision-making
and for enhanced accountability, this Council has no direct experience
of the proposed new arrangements. However, in one respect there
has been some pioneering work and that is in the area of scrutiny.
2. SETTING UP
Milton Keynes Council has had a Scrutiny Committee
in place since 1996 operating alongside the traditional structure
(in fact it has been re-titled Scrutiny Commission to differentiate
it from the other committees).
The Scrutiny Commission is empowered to examine
the performance of the Council, monitor the quality of Council
services and scrutinise the effect of Council policies and initiatives.
It achieves this through regular monitoring of performance indicators,
and complaints reporting, to identify areas/issues requiring improvement.
Individual Commission Members can raise issues which are bought
to their attention, fit within the Commission's terms of reference
and are not being examined elsewhere.
The Commission has been instrumental in driving
forward the quality agenda of the Council through its support
of the Quality Management Framework and has seen the service planning
process improve as a result. The continued interest in all aspects
of complaints reporting has maintained this as an important feedback
mechanism for the Council. Focus by the Commission on individual
issues such as the performance of Benefits and Development Control
has led to improvement in both cases as a result of recommendations
made to the relevant service committees.
Recently the Commission has demonstrated a new
method of carrying out a detailed investigation into a specific
topic with its pilot select committee report on Homelessness.
Along with a current select committee on play areas, this approach
has successfully engaged a wider range of stakeholders from service
users (including children) to expert witnesses from outside organisations.
From an operational point of view the Scrutiny
Commission was set up with a Chair not of the same party as the
Administration and this principle has been maintained to date.
The Commission membership has been on a proportional basis but
has consistently functioned in a non-party political manner. This
is an encouraging precursor to the envisaged Overview and Scrutiny
function although it is clear that progress will still be required
in the areas of work programme management, meeting formats and
venues, and greater public involvement.