Start well: why we need to look ahead at scrutiny committee agendas

Team SF, a hotshot team of citizen reporters, has covered each of the Scrutiny Committees of Manchester City Council for the past ten months. Together their reports document the Council’s response (rarely proactive) to major challenges facing the city and lack of meaningful action on the climate emergency. Exposing this is an important step.

But it’s not enough. We need to ensure crucial information about proposed developments, or a damning statistic, gets to groups and individuals campaigning on a range of intersecting issues across the city. We need to help them ask – loudly, publicly – the questions that were not asked in the meeting itself.

That’s why we’re posting a ‘Scrutiny Week: what we can we expect?’ blog when the papers come out each month. It’s also why we plan to publish more briefing papers for citizens and councillors, produced collaboratively the weekend before scrutiny. Members of Team SF are now undertaking foresight work, spotting and communicating the key points in the agenda ahead of the meeting and using their experience to highlight what is missing, and how the meeting might play out. Here, Mike Franks reflects on recurring patterns at Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee and what is coming up at the October 2021 session.

Endeavouring over recent months to convey topics covered, questions raised and responses given by officers and in some cases by councillors, it is perhaps worth noting the lack of opportunity to pause and discuss. So, a change of tack.  

Why is it that papers are still presented to scrutiny wherein lies ‘Improving outcomes for the children and families across the City, helps build and develop whole communities and increases the liability of the City’? Perhaps the Director of Education in a COVID 19 Update might explain how this liability is increased? Or indeed, liveability? But no. 

Sure, I understand the workload pressure, the urge to copy and paste, and the absence of budget to employ a copy editor or proof reader – but hey, when is the climate emergency and its potential for adverse impacts on the city disproportionately affecting children and young people, to be addressed? 

Undoubtedly, the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee considers a broad range of important issues, this month for instance also including a Start Well Strategy, Adoption, Managing allegations against adults who work with children, and Youth and Play Commissioning Arrangements.  

 The Youth and Play Commissioning report from the Strategic Director of Neighbourhoods is to be commended for attempting to flesh out the ambition that Strategic Commissioning decisions are taken to ensure they make the strongest possible contribution to achieving the zero-carbon target for the city. It is stated that ‘Young people understand the impact they can make within their neighbourhoods, and the wider community’. However, the section in the report devoted to contributing to the Our Manchester Strategy simply repeats summaries given in the Environmental Impact Assessment table at the outset. Are we to assume young people are expected to do it for themselves, with no clear strategic thought forthcoming from officers? 

Climate Emergency Manchester are keen to fill this void having already produced briefing papers for scrutiny committees with possible actions to combat climate change.

If you are concerned about the future of the city and would like to join our work around scrutiny, do get in touch There are jobs of all shapes and sizes!

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