Council scrutiny put at risk claim

THE system used to scrutinise and question North Somerset Council decisions to make sure they are fair is at risk of being 'ineffective' - according to a councillor. Cllr Tony Moulin says a decision to leave council scrutiny panels without any officer su

THE system used to scrutinise and question North Somerset Council decisions to make sure they are fair is at risk of being 'ineffective' - according to a councillor. Cllr Tony Moulin says a decision to leave council scrutiny panels without any officer support means their work will be jeopardised.The panels cover all elements of council policy on the environment, finance and performance, adult services and housing, children and young people's services, strategic planning and economic development, community services and health.His comments follow authority leader Cllr Nigel Ashton's decision not to immediately replace two departing scrutiny support officers, whose role includes research and taking part in discussions, in addition to administration. Cllr Ashton said at a full council meeting last week: "With the review still going on I think it would be unfair to start recruiting more staff or moving staff."As soon as I can clarify suitable positions we will do that if there are people in similar roles."The council is currently holding a wide-ranging review of its services to seek ways of closing a £17million gap in its budget over the next two years.Cllr Moulin, a former management lecturer and Yatton's Independent representative, said this week: "I can understand why he would want to delay but there is a risk of ineffective scrutiny."He also warned the Tory administration: "If we just cut, cut, cut, we will not build up the resources to help us save for the future."Previously, two officers gave 'specialised' support to seven scrutiny panels which put councillors' decisions under the microscope.One has already left and another is in the process of leaving.Cllr Moulin added: "Even recruiting internally will delay matters. "Can we afford to delay the effectiveness of our scrutiny panels at a time when the council is faced with difficult decisions?"If the council is going to recruit internally perhaps it should advertise.


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