Is RBWM Infrastructure Overview & Scrutiny full of dead wood?

On Tuesday evening the RBWM Infrastructure Overview & Scrutiny Panel met and again chose not to pick any topics from the Work Schedule for its next meeting! 2 out of 3 meetings, no topics chosen… this is now beyond a joke and shows utter contempt for residents.

The Chair, who is paid an allowance of £4,984 per year to manage proceedings, equating to over £1,200 per meeting if no additional meetings are called, chose not to attend, allowing the deputy chair to prevent my voice being heard. Paid by residents to ignore residents!

Having seen the chair had completely ignored my emails asking for topics to be included, even sending me an email stating;

“ … I am well educate, have worked in big organisation as an executive and have fantastic experience compared to some .  I no not need your advise.

From now on, I will not be entertaining any of your emails and if you do, I will take further action.

With nothing new to vote on and to get out of the way of the workmen at home, believing I could log in via Zoom to have my say, we headed for the New Forest for a few days.

I was advised by Democratic Services that I could not join in via Zoom but my sub could read out my statement during the Work Programme item on the agenda. When Cllr Taylor attempted to do so on Tuesday evening she was shut down by the Vice Chair, reinforcing my message that the current RBWM Overview & Scrutiny process is not fit for purpose. The Tories just block, block, block any kind of meaningful debate.

Here is what I wanted to have read out but which got blocked by the Chair…

As Vice Chair last year I invited residents & councillors to bring topics for discussion and this effort has been completely ignored. I asked for “Street lighting” to come to O&S in June, but it didn’t. I asked for the chair to bring forward topics from the work programme for this panel meeting, they haven’t. What is the point of the Infrastructure O&S Panel if it is not discussing serious topics that are relevant to residents and not simply acting as a nodding dog for standard reports?

Currently there is a consultation around LCWHIP walking & cycling around the Borough. Why wasn’t the work programme topic around 20 MPH speed limits across the Borough brought for discussion? Totally logical but absolutely no thought or effort has been put in to bring this forward.

Talking to officers yesterday in my shadow briefing, they were surprised nothing had come forward.

Last week, due to Planning failing to meet a deadline, a 5G Mast will probably be erected right in the middle of residential housing after many objections were submitted by RBWM officers, local residents, resident associations, Parish councils, WNP and the Windsor & Eton Society. 

I am hearing other examples where deadlines in planning have been missed. How do we investigate this? Could we run a T&F? But does it fit under infrastructure?

It would make a great deal of sense that the O&S panels restructured themselves inline with the revised council structure with “communities” becoming “resources” and “infrastructure” changing its name to “place”. I suggest we ask Karen how we need to process that change. This way it will be clearer which O&S Panel a topic should go to. 

Thank you.

Cllr Jon Davey

(I have since asked Karen and she has advised of the procedure for change.)

Essentially, O&S is supposed to question the decisions made by the Council & Cabinet and ensure residents are getting value for money. The full role is detailed below with a link to the constitution.

Ask yourself how can a Chair, representing the same party as the Cabinet, be in a position to ask the right challenging questions to truly hold the administration to account? When keeping that role (allowance) means not stepping out of line.

They can’t and that is why any serious debates are shut down, reinforcing that O&S in RBWM is currently not fit for purpose and needs a major overhaul.

There is hope, officers are aware of the lack of scrutiny and are attempting to bring change… the only real changes and improvements to Governance can be made when the residents realise that voting for the Tories is the biggest stumbling block to real change.

Have you read the latest financial report going to cabinet next week?

Only when residents stop voting blue will they see things start to improve in the communities in which we all live.

PART 4 – OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY B – Terms of Reference for Overview and Scrutiny

Role and Scope of Infrastructure Overview & Scrutiny Panel

All matters relating to the provision of infrastructure, planning, housing, highways and transportation within the Borough.

B2 General role 

The Overview and Scrutiny Panels may: 

i) Review and/or scrutinise decisions to be made by Cabinet and made by it or actions taken in connection with the discharge of any of the Council’s functions. 

ii) Make reports and/or recommendations to the full Council and/or the Cabinet in connection with the discharge of any functions. 

iii) Consider any matter affecting the area or its inhabitants that falls within the remit of the council. 

iv) Exercise the right to call-in, for reconsideration, executive decisions made in respect of which no steps have been taken to implement the decision. 

v) Assist the Council and the Cabinet in the development of its budget and policy framework by in-depth analysis of the draft plans and policy issues to be submitted to Council. 

vi) Conduct such necessary research and investigation in the analysis of the policy issues and the possible options for the plans to be submitted to Council as above. 

vii) Question relevant Members of Cabinet and the relevant Chief Officers about issues and proposals affecting the area. 

viii) Liaise with other external organisations operating in the area, whether national, regional or local, to ensure that the interest of local people are enhanced by collaborative working.

ix) Review and scrutinise the decisions to be made by Cabinet and which have been made by the Cabinet and Council officers both in relation to individual decisions and over time. 

x) Review and scrutinise the performance of the Council in relation to its policy objectives, performance targets and/or particular service areas. 

xi) Question Members of the Cabinet and Directors about their decisions, whether generally in comparison with service plans and targets over a period of time, or in relation to particular decisions, initiatives or projects. 

xii) Make recommendations to the Cabinet and/or Council arising from the outcome of the Scrutiny process. Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Constitution Part 9 A Part 4 – 24

xiii) Review and scrutinise the performance of the relevant bodies in the area and invite reports from them to address an Overview and Scrutiny Panel and local people about their activities and performance. 

xiv) Question and gather evidence from any person or organisation (with that person/organisation’s consent).

xv) Consider any petitions referred to the Panel in accordance with the Council Petitions Protocol. 

xvi) Work to ensure that communities are engaged in the scrutiny process; and consider and implement mechanisms to encourage and enhance community participation in the development of policy options.

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