DECISION-MAKING in Bracknell Forest is set to get a major revamp as bosses shake up important council committees.

An independent review of Bracknell Forest Council’s overview and scrutiny panels – which are set up to hold the decisions top officers and councillors make to account – found they were “efficiently managed” but also noted “a deficit of democratic accountability.”

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A report from December 2018 read: “There are too few examples of executive members and [the] Leader/deputy being publicly held to account by scrutiny.

Bracknell News:

“There is insufficient openness and transparency in scrutiny.

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“The challenge of scrutiny is more complex as council members, must in reality, scrutinise themselves.

“However effective public scrutiny is still achievable and required.”

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The report, which came from the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS), also pointed towards other issues, including:

  • Internal review groups ‘severely diluted’ the role of public scrutiny
  • Some councillors saw the panels as being opportunities to gather information rather than hold decisions to account
  • There is no ‘forward plan’ from the executive which councillors can use as a basis for scrutiny work
  • Councillors not being allowed to scrutinise decisions due to ‘commercial confidentiality’

Bracknell News:

Seven recommendations were made by the CfPS to improve scrutiny at BFC, and bosses at the authority are set to replace existing panels with themed panels based on ‘wellbeing and finance’, ‘education, skills and growth’ and ‘environment and communities’.

It is hoped these themed panels will allow the panels’ “activity to align more closely to the council’s objectives for the next four years.”

Councillors on BFC’s overview and scrutiny commission are set to greenlight the plans to replace the existing panels with new committees tonight (Tuesday, November 5).

The commission’s chairman, Conservative councillor Robert Angell, told the News: “They [the CfPS] actually make the point that Bracknell Forest is a well-run council but I don’t think that any organisation should rest on its laurels.

“We are taking this on board I think they [the panels] are going to be more structured than they were before.

“We want to hold the executive to account to make sure they are delivering on the council plan.”

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Labour councillor Mary Temperton welcomed the changes, adding: “It is going to be a lot more hands-on working for the members and I think we will get a lot more out of it.

“The time commitment is quite concerning but I think it will be quite exciting.

“At the end of it, I don’t want to put in all my time to be told everything is all going well.”