Warwickshire County Council: Bus and water companies on panel's radar

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Severn Trent Water and bus operators are among the bodies that could be called to face questions from county councillors in Warwickshire over the next year.

The chair and vice-chair of Warwickshire County Council’s communities overview and scrutiny committee mentioned the potential for a broader remit over the next council year during Tuesday’s annual meeting for all councillors.

Overview and scrutiny committees run the rule over the work of the council and some partners who deliver public services or things that relate to them.

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The panels have no direct powers but they can call in people from such organisations to ask questions or answer concerns. From there they pass comment and make recommendations targeted at improving the services offered.

Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick. Picture by Mike Baker.Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick. Picture by Mike Baker.
Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters in Warwick. Picture by Mike Baker.

Vice-chair Councillor Jonathan Chilvers, who is also leader of the Green Party group on the county council (Leamington Brunswick), led the call to do more of that kind of work.

“One of the greatest additions overview and scrutiny can make is when we bring outside bodies to the committee, or hear the perspective directly from the people that use our services across the council,” he said.

“I think it’s a really important opportunity, it allows us to then better scrutinise the work we do.

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“It feels like a year or two ago that we had a bit more of that, and maybe slightly less of it in the past year. I know from my own committee in communities, we had Severn Trent in during the year before last, which was excellent.

“I’m really hoping that we can get some people that receive our careers service and some of our skills services to come to talk to us in the coming year.

“It’s just a plea.

"I know it takes a little more organisation and thinking but it really adds value to what we do in overview and scrutiny, so please, I ask that we try to remember that in the coming year.”

Councillor Jeff Clarke (Con, Nuneaton East) chairs that panel and reflected on some “really interesting” blocks of work, adding: “We have had utilities to overview and scrutiny in previous years, there is an intention to bring the utilities back in the coming year as well.

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“Hopefully, one of which would be the bus companies, the other one would probably be Severn Trent, so there is an intention there to scrutinise and dig down further."

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Cllr Clarke also stressed the importance of staying on top of big items taken on by the council, particularly related to highways.

“The projects can be quite detailed and sometimes quite protracted and I think we need to ensure that any works undertaken by the county council, particularly in relation to highways projects, things like that, are scrutinised,” he added.

“It’s important we actually have those reports back to the committee so we can dig down to make sure what is being done gets done correctly and in a timely manner.

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“It’s quite frustrating to many residents across the county when they see schemes delayed, it’s important we make sure the reason behind that is known and that members of the public understand what the rationale or issue is.

“I hope that reassures members that we’re doing a job for this council that will help move things forward and benefit the people of the county.”