Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Milton Keynes Council (LAG 21)


  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.


  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.

January 2001

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