West Norfolk Council may meet less often in new scrutiny plan

West Norfolk Council's offices (left)
West Norfolk Council's offices (left)
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Council bodies could meet less often if proposed new scrutiny structures are given the go-ahead.

Plans for a major overhaul of council structures have been published after an external review concluded that its scrutiny procedures were not working as well as they could.

The new report, which will be debated by its ruling cabinet next week, contains 12 recommendations which officials intend to implement at the start of the new municipal year in May.

And the document insists the measures are intended to create more effective scrutiny of council decisions, rather than simply more scrutiny.

It added: “The changes proposed within this report are designed to enhance the council’s policy and decision making process and should help to reduce risk attached to the introduction of new policies or major projects by achieving an earlier more in depth and effective scrutiny of proposals.”

The proposed measures include a plan to move to a new cycle in which the council, cabinet and most committees would meet once every six weeks, instead of the current monthly programme.

The planning committee would still continue to meet each month.

The resources and performance panel would be re-named under corporate performance and have its remit extended to enable it to call in cabinet decisions, review major projects and policy changes and monitor the medium term financial plan.

The existing cabinet scrutiny committee would be scrapped.

Other measures proposed include a clear encouragement to committees to bring forward their own initiatives and help to develop and amend policy and a move to give cabinet members, rather than officers, the authorisation to make policy changes required by any law amendments.

Panels would also be allowed to elect their own chairman and vice-chairman and a review of the council’s constitution will also be carried out to assess the effects of the changes.

The measures have been brought forward in response to an external review of its scrutiny procedures carried out by the Centre for Public Scrutiny last year.

A cross-party task group was then set up to examine the review’s findings and the views expressed by members at a workshop.

If approved by the cabinet, the plans will then be put to the full council when it next meets in late April.