Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Wednesday 31 October 2012
10:30 a.m.
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

F McIntyre, (Chair), Brady, J Hobson, Junier, Loughborough, Lowes, McPartland, P Purvis, J Sharrocks.
Councillors Brunton and C Hobson.
P Clark, S Harker and A Hoy.
Apologies for absence:
Declarations of interest:

No Declarations of Interest were made at this point of the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The minutes of the meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel held on 10 October 2012 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer presented the draft final report on the Coroner's Service.  Panel Members gave consideration to the conclusions and recommendations.


AGREED that:


1.   the following recommendations be included in the Final Report:


  • Staffing levels and experience are major factors in processing an Inquest swiftly. The 8 staff presently allocated is found to be greater than the indicated norm expected. However, it is understood that only two of these staff are qualified field officers. It is therefore recommended that greater emphasis is placed on ensuring that all staff are trained and capable of undertaking this function which would provide improved flexibility of this resource.


  • A Guide to Coroners and Inquests is presently available. However the Panel considers that a Coroner’s Charter which is specifically targeted to Teesside, detailing the roles and expectations of the Local Authority, NHS and Police within the Teesside Coroner’s Service should be developed.  It is therefore recommended that a Charter is developed in agreement with the partner organisations.


  • The issue of young people dying from unexplained causes is a concern.  From information received the panel recommends that in such cases where a young person dies from unexplained reasons and has a sibling that the sibling should automatically be screened for Cardiac disorder. T he panel recommends that this action be introduced immediately and contained within the proposed Coroner’s Charter.


  • Improved technology is already operating with Cleveland Police which is believed would assist the administrative process of the Coroner’s Service.  Acknowledging there are issues of confidentiality and training to be addressed the panel recommends that this system be introduced swiftly which would track and automatically generate the appropriate reminders and correspondence.


  • The analysis and information received relating to financial information and charges to the Coroner by the NHS were found to contain a number of variables.  Consequently, the panel recommends that the Council’s Auditors undertake a Value for Money exercise into the Coroner’s Service, to ensure, that in such times of austerity, the charges and costs are not excessive and not out of line with other jurisdictions.


  • As the increase in costs over the five year period are above the level of inflation and place additional pressures on the Council it is recommended that the Council and the Coroner meet with the NHS to discuss their charges and moderate future increases.


  • That the Teesside Coroner engages with the Ministry of Justice and agree a process for engaging with the local press for the purpose of producing some positive publicity about the Coroner’s Service.  Also that the Coroner’s Office ensures that families are regularly appraised of the reasons of a delay when the inquest is taking longer than the expected time. (The national average should be a benchmark to alert families of the reasons for the present position which is beyond that benchmark).


  • Consideration has been given to implementing a process where an inquest is opened following a post-operative death.  The panel recommends that this practice outlined to the panel be implemented and that discussions be concluded with Medical Directors of the Hospitals involved.  The principle being that a date is agreed with the appropriate people which ensures all witnesses or organisations are aware that reports are to be prepared and submitted within two to three months.


  • Presently, the average time for the conclusion of an inquest in Teesside is substantially greater than the national average.  In addition to this the panel is aware that there is a substantial backlog of inquests to be concluded.  Consequently, the panel recommends that arrangements are made through the Chief Constable for Cleveland Police to immediately apply a short term additional resource to substantially reduce this backlog of cases to a manageable level.


  • As Cleveland Police provide the Coroner’s Officers for Teesside and Hartlepool and are managed within one unit, it is recommended that the Ministry of Justice give serious consideration to the merging of the Teesside Coroner Service with the Hartlepool Coroner Service and making the Coroners jurisdiction coterminous with the Cleveland Police support area and thereby improving the efficiency of the service.


  • There are clearly operational tensions between the Coroner’s Office and the Police.  The panel considers these tensions are no doubt driven by operational pressures, however they must be addressed.  The panel therefore recommends that a meeting involving the Chief Constable and Coroner and operational staff be convened to openly address and resolve these differences.


  • The panel recognises there is not one solution to resolve the delays in Teesside.  Consequently, the panel recommends that detail is presented to the panel in six months which outlines the time taken, backlog, staffing levels and action against each recommendation to assess the progress achieved.

2.   the Final Report on the Coroner's Service be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board.


A report was presented to provide details of the scrutiny into Neighbourhood Watch. The Panel had met and received information from various sources including the Police, local Neighbourhood Watch representatives, Problem Solving Co-ordinators from Stockton and Middlesbrough and a representative from Middlesbrough Council.


Members of the Panel had determined that they did not require any further information and discussed their conclusions and recommendations.


AGREED that the Scrutiny Support Officer would prepare a draft final report on Neighbourhood Watch for consideration by the Panel at its next meeting.


A report was presented to introduce the new scrutiny topic of Leisure Facilities. At the time this item was presented to Overview and Scrutiny Board (OSB) for approval for the Work Programme, the focus of the scrutiny was "The Shaping of Leisure Facilities provided by the Council in response to Budgetary Reduction".


The Panel was requested to identify its Terms of Reference and Lines of Enquiry for undertaking this scrutiny. One key factor that had emerged through OSB was to identify the Council’s statutory obligations in terms of service provision.


The Panel was informed that consideration was being given to the formation of a Trust to provide leisure services in Middlesbrough. It was suggested the Panel could scrutinise the benefits and drawbacks of setting up a Trust.


AGREED that the Panel would receive a briefing on the formation of a Trust in relation to the provision of Leisure Facilities, at the next meeting.


The Chair requested that the Panel note the content of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 16 October 2012, namely:

  • Attendance of Executive Members at the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
  • Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Resources.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.
  • Executive Feedback.
  • Removal of Asbestos - Erimus Housing.
  • Safeguarding Pressures.
  • Environment Service Standards - Final Report of the Environment Scrutiny Panel.
  • Development of Private Patient Units - Final Report of the Health Scrutiny Panel.
  • Consideration of Requests for Scrutiny Reviews.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.
  • Report from the Audit and Governance Committee - Winter Maintenance.


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