The new Conservative Leader of the County Council has asked me to become the Chair of the Finance Scrutiny Committee. This is a big and hopefully influential job. It follows criticism from the Government’s Inspector and the Local Government Association of how scrutiny has previously operated, and in particular of how the Council’s leadership have ignored the Scrutiny Committee in the past.
They have never had an opposition councillor in this role before despite it being recognised by most as best practice, and I hope it is in recognition of my belief in the importance of effective scrutiny.
For scrutiny to work for the benefit of local residents it needs to be cross-party and objective. I’m a strong believer that this can happen, and already attend meetings of East Midland Council’s Scrutiny Network where councillors and council officers share examples of how scrutiny works across the region. It’s important the Committee does not become ‘political’, but if they think they will stop me commenting in other meetings where that is appropriate, they’ll be sadly disappointed.
It’s a big challenge and one I am looking forward to. I should stress this does not mean I’m in charge of the council’s financial decisions! That power is with the finance portfolio holder and the Conservative cabinet, but will hopefully give the Committee and I a chance to take an active and constructive role in commenting on their decisions and make suggestions as to how they operate going forward.