ACTION FOUR: The creation of an Environmental Scrutiny Committee by December 31st 2014 (at the absolute latest)
There used to be a Physical Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee for Manchester City Council, back in the day (until March 2007, in fact).
Given the fact that Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee already has a packed remit and forward work programme, it is time to (re)create a dedicated Scrutiny Committee.
Create an Environmental Scrutiny Committee of equal standing to the existing six scrutiny committees, to examine progress not just on climate change but other issues such as biodiversity and Green and Blue Infrastructure.
(Such an Environmental Scrutiny Committee could lead the way in constructive engagement with the many individuals and groups willing and able to support the Council’s work. Membership of the committee would not need to be restricted to councillors (see the precedent set by the Young People and Children’s Committee), and the committee need not meet in the Town Hall during working hours. The existence of the Environmental Strategy Programme Board, which meets in private and contains few if any elected members, is not an adequate substitute.)
Put the draft Terms of Reference out to consultation. What ToRs? These ones.
Make amendments in agreement with stakeholders.
Get it through the whole constitutional wrangle.
Get the thing up and running after the May local elections.
Command & Control/unanswered questions
Executive Member for the Environment to make this happen, in collaboration with other senior councillors.
How long will it last before it ossifies and dies the way the Environmental Advisory Panel was allowed to? Dunno, but let’s find out, eh?
There would be a significant burden on officers IF all reports to the Environment Scrutiny Committee were produced in the traditional format. But this need not be the case. While the committee would have a scrutiny function (doh!) it would also be able to call witnesses to give oral reports, commission (unfunded) work by voluntary groups, academics etc.
Potential multiplier effects
This would be genuinely ground-breaking, opening up the Town Hall’s policy-making and scrutiny in a way that has not happened to date.
Consequences of non-delivery of this action
The current trajectory of the Climate Change Plans will continue (remember; the Council aimed at a 20% reduction in its own emissions by 2014. Until as late as July 2013 it was saying it would get there. Now it admits it will get 13%, if it’s lucky…
Next short-term action(s)
It’s really really simple. Yes, getting change in the Town Hall is like running in treacle. Uphill. With your legs tied together. Attached to a bungee cord. While Sisyphus laughs at you.
But it can be done, no?
Medium-to-long term actions
See you all in June!