As deputy chair of the Finance and Resources Committee at the County Council I am a member of the Scrutiny Management Committee who oversee the various scrutiny committees who look at how the council propose to do things and whether or not they work effectively.
Today we discussed how councillors would scrutinise the move towards the County Council becoming what is known as a Next Generation Council which basically means outsourcing all the councils services to various organisations and away from direct control.
I spoke about how worried I was about the overall concept of this but recognised that like it or not, this is what the Conservative controlled council has decided, and the rest of us therefore have a duty to ensure that if it is going to happen we at least make sure it happens in a way that is in the best interest of the people of Northamptonshire.
To that end we agreed a list of standard questions that should become the basis for the council’s scrutiny of all the various elements that make up their master plan. I successfully argued that the first question should be about the effect the new organisation will have on services as they are experienced by residents.
It had been proposed that this was the last question to be asked but I argued it was the most important and therefore it should be moved to the top of the list just to underline its importance. I also managed to add in the wording about looking at how services will be enhanced and improved because clearly if services are not going to be improved there is no reason to change things.
Unfortunately I was less successful in my next request which was simply to ask the question about whether the proposed changes will actually save money. The Tory controlled committee did not agree that this question should be added which I was amazed at because the drive for such a radical change to council services has been said to be the need to save money, so in my mind if it isn’t going to save money what’s the point going through all the upheaval of changes and the associated risks to services.
It just makes me wonder if actually the drive for these changes has been purely political all along and that the current spending crisis is just being used as an excuse to push through ideological changes.