MOVERS and shakers have been meeting to look at how best to keep tabs on spending and help steer Wearside through tough times.
Public services are in for a rough ride over the next 12 months as Sunderland City Council, health bodies and other organisations cope with funding cuts and shake-ups.
Delegates met for Sunderland’s fourth annual scrutiny conference to look at how best to keep tabs on the decisions and actions of those with power in the coming months.
The event brought together councillors from each of the council’s watchdog scrutiny committees as well as representatives from other organisations.
Councillor David Tate, chairman of the over-arching management scrutiny committee, said: “Public services are under great pressure and local democratic scrutiny must ensure it provides effective challenge to performance following the abolition of the Audit Commission.
“With significant savings to be made next year and the need to rethink how we deliver core vital services this makes the event even more vital to attend than ever.”
“The annual scrutiny conference provides a valuable opportunity to share experiences with others and discuss new approaches to ensure accountability, transparency and involvement processes are focused on delivering more for less.”
Coun Tate also talked about the proposed changes to NHS in his speech to the conference, and the need to scrutinise how and what would be done.
Coun Harry Trueman, a member of the council’s ruling cabinet, said he not only understood the need for checks and balances, but relished the chance to have a “critical friend” – the scrutiny committees – helping improve policy.
The conference took place at Crowtree Leisure Centre, with Canon Stephen Taylor – chairman of the Sunderland Partnership – as the keynote speaker.
He said: “We must continue to work together to meet the needs of people and identify their concerns and through scrutiny see how we can target resources even more effectively to address them.
“The Local Government landscape is changing fast and this annual event is a useful opportunity for councillors to share experiences of working with partners over the past 12 months and for partners to help identify key issues to review in the next year.”
The conference allowed councillors and people from partner organisations to meet and talk in workshops and open debate.
The event helped decide the work programmes for each of the scrutiny committees and which areas they should be looking at how to increase levels of transparency, public involvement and accountability
Discussions at last year’s event identified key areas for investigation which included apprenticeships and training for young people, the link between alcohol and antisocial behaviour in the city centre and the quality of hospital food.
THERE are seven scrutiny committees in Sunderland, each made up of councillors – with some including representatives from outside.
They each take responsibility for looking at particular areas of policy, and keep tabs on actions, decisions and strategies of not only the council’s executive, but other organisations in the city as well.
The committees are:
l Children, Young People and Learning;
l Safer City;
l Environment and Attractive City;
l Health and Well-Being;
l Prosperity and Economic Development;
l Sustainable Communities;