Wrexham Council has an Executive Board of 10 members who make most decisions other than those that the Constitution states must be made by Full Council i.e the budget. The Executive Board is as expected well attended. Most reports that come to the Executive Board for a decision have also, supposedly been scrutinised and challenged by one of the five Scrutiny Committees who then make recommendations to the Executive Board and/or Full Council. Members of the Executive Board cannot also be members of any Scrutiny Committee but they can attend as observers and contribute to any debate.
My concerns around the democratic deficit arises from a Joint Meeting of Social Affairs, Health and Housing SC and Children and Young People's SC held on Monday 30th November 2009, to discuss matters of Adult and Children's Social Care and the Annual Reporting Framework, a matter of some considerable importance where there was a need for challenge. Unfortunately out of the 26 members of both committees only 7 members were present and although those 7 together with 3 Lead Members did challenge officers it does show that there is the potential with poor attendance for important matters to get through the democratic process without proper scrutiny or challenge.
I am not using this as a political point scoring exercise as ALL parties can improve their attendance, some more than others; and I don't doubt that the timing of the meeting at 10.30am on Monday morning did nothing to improve attendance especially for those members who work. There were also some on holidays.
To improve attendance at Scrutiny Committees I would be looking at changing the times of the meetings, but there again times to suit those working will not suit those with child care issues. Secondly I would look to publish Attendance records which would give voters an opportunity to see how well they were being served. Thirdly I would advocate a sanction of reducing a member's allowance if they failed to attend meetings without good reason.
Would really appreciate views from other Welsh Local Authorities.