Knowsley Council has approved the borough’s Scrutiny Annual Report for 2020/21.
The role of the borough’s Scrutiny Committees was carried out against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Committees having to adapt to new ways of working and as a result conducting their business remotely.
The Council’s Scrutiny Committees review and scrutinise the performance and effectiveness of various Council functions across its five committees:
- Climate Emergency
- Economic Growth & Prosperity
- Health & Adult Social Care
- Sustainable Borough
In a challenging year, each Committee continued to undertake their responsibilities and identified areas of good practice, gaining assurance across a range of areas, along with areas of focus in which service provision could be enhanced.
Over the course of the year, the committee looked into Covid-19 recovery, contextualised safeguarding, the Children and Families Plan, the neurodevelopment pathway, the response to neglect and received a ‘first look’ item into child poverty.
The Committee conducted a task and finish review into Early Help and Parental support and were really impressed with the officers’ work, demonstrating passion and commitment throughout the pandemic to ensure that vulnerable families were supported. The Committee praised the dedication, passion and commitment shown by all the staff working in Children’s Services despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The Committee focussed on the development of the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan and then looked more broadly at borough-wide actions and activities, in particular communication and engagement.
The Committee was impressed with the amount of funding secured by officers to help meet the borough’s net-carbon aims. The Committee was keen for officers to support local charity groups and small organisations to bid for available funding and wanted to see all resident groups, partners and stakeholders involved in helping to meet climate emergency targets. A visual dashboard has been established for the Committee to enable regular monitoring of the borough’s progress in meeting its targets.
Economic Growth and Prosperity
The Committee looked at a variety of areas in the context of Covid-19 and its impact, such as upon on economic growth and prosperity holistically, highways and transportation, business’ workforce needs, and resident’s employment support needs to support the journey to economic recovery.
The Committee also looked into and determined its satisfaction with the development of key strategic documents concerning housing and tenancies to enable Members to feed in their local insight, to highlight any potential issues, and matters that required consideration. The Committee was able to do so in its consideration of the council’s plans to develop a new Housing Strategy and Housing Allocations Policy, alongside the Liverpool City Region’s Tenancy Strategy.
Health and Adult Social Care
The Committee looked into the impact of Covid-19 on Health and Adult Social Care, the Adult Social Care Recovery and Transformation Plan 2020-2023, the Winter Plan for 2020/21, assessed temporary changes to Aston Healthcare’s service offer, the Care Home Improvement Strategy, the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-25, and the impact of Covid-19 on the quality of and access to health and adult social care services.
This year the Committee undertook a task and finish review that focused on mental health, social isolation and loneliness with consideration of the impact of Covid-19.
The Committee was assured by the response to the issues across the sector and appreciated the difficulties in mitigating the impact of such complex and personal experiences, particularly in the context of a pandemic. However, the Committee saw opportunities to improve and bolster provision. The Committee was encouraged to see that some newly developed ways of working had been successful, and that the pandemic had not only presented opportunities both in terms of working differently, but also in bringing the sector closer to work collaboratively.
The Committee was the council’s designated committee for the oversight of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the recovery phase. With focus upon Covid-19, the areas it looked at were staff mental health and wellbeing, partnership working, the test and trace programme, community support, effective outbreak management and returning Council services to a ‘new normal’.
The Committee was also able to consider issues within its wider strategic remit, for example the Licensing Policy, and tackling crime and disorder with a view to improving community safety.
The Committee considered the Council’s initial response to the first wave of the pandemic, its work to manage the second and third waves, mass testing and planning for and delivering vaccinations. The Committee looked at the financial impact the virus has had on the Council, staff, residents and local businesses and was heartened to learn about the strength and resilience of Knowsley’s communities. The Committee were assured that robust plans are in place to help the borough recover from the pandemic and ensure we continue to deliver our services in the right way for our residents.
The full scrutiny report can be found here.