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Calls for Flintshire public to be better included in local decision making

Calls have been made for people in Flintshire to be given a stronger voice in local decision-making.

It follows a Wales Audit Office report on how Flintshire Council can improve its scrutiny committee meetings, which examine different frontline services.

There are currently six scrutiny committees which form part of the authority, looking at areas such as health and social care, environment and education.

Comprising 15 backbench politicians from across different groups, they hold cabinet members to account, along with council staff and members of other organisations, as well as influencing policies.

Overall the report praised the work of the committees, but said they needed to improve their arrangements for promoting public engagement.

The auditors said: “The council values its overview and scrutiny function and is taking steps to promote effective scrutiny, however better work planning, use of a wider range of scrutiny methods and routine evaluation of the impact of scrutiny activity will help in responding to current and future challenges.

“Members of the public are encouraged to attend overview and scrutiny meetings, and committee papers are available on the council’s website.

“However overview and scrutiny committees rarely seek to proactively engage the public in their work through for example seeking views on topics under consideration or seeking views on potential topics for scrutiny.

“This may in part be due to the default approach to scrutiny activity of receiving officer reports at full committee meetings.”
It added that scrutiny meetings should give a ‘voice’ to local communities, allowing them to be heard as part of the decision-making process.

The report also recommends that the authority should carry out regular self-assessments of its committees to consider their impact, and identify areas for improvement.

In response to the comments, Robert Robins, the council’s democratic services manager said: “As officers, we welcome the proposals, which are constructive and, if the committee is supportive, intend to examine how they could inform future overview and scrutiny work, including the development of a self-assessment template for use by overview and scrutiny committees.

“Flintshire has offered public engagement over a number of years, but this has not been effective.

“Subject to committee agreement, we will investigate this further.”

Members of the constitution and democratic services committee will be asked to provide their feedback on the proposals next Wednesday.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter.

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