In a report of the Senior Scrutiny Officer the Board was reminded of arrangements for Individual Members of the Executive to attend meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Board to provide updates on their respective work in terms of their aims, aspirations, objectives, priorities and any emerging issues or pressures. The process was part of the scrutiny arrangements of holding the Executive to account and also provided the opportunity for the Board to identify or highlight any issues of concern or difficulty.
The Chair welcomed the Mayor, Ray Mallon to the meeting who indicated his intention to focus on a number of key strategic and operational priorities for 2011 to 2015 as identified in a document circulated at the meeting which continued to be revised as circumstances dictated.
From the outset it was acknowledged that to safeguard the finances of the Council was imperative and given the drastically reduced budgets there was a need to consider how to deal with a changing culture to ensure that the Council was fit for purpose now and in the future.
Of continuing importance was the demand led pressures within safeguarding and an increasing number of children looked after often with complex needs and pressures with regard to adult social care.
The Board's attention was drawn to operational priorities firstly to the complexities around the revenue and capital programme. Given the current financial situation and constant changing circumstances the Mayor indicated that the format of the Capital Programme should be examined to be more easily understood and reflect the Council's changing position.
In terms of the social, health and wellbeing priorities reference was made to the Youth Agenda and Social Deprivation issues such as the Troubled Families Unit, NEETs, youth unemployment, benefit dependency, public health issues and teenage pregnancies.
Specific reference was made to a number of schemes under the overall heading of regeneration and current situation with regard to delays which had occurred or a slowing down in progressing certain schemes such as Enterprise Zones, Central Gardens East, Sports Village and Cannon Park development.
In relation to strategic priorities with regard to Transport particular reference was made to the need for further discussion around East Middlesbrough By Pass and careful consideration which needed to be given to the level of car parking charges in the context of the overall economic situation of the Town Centre.
Although the subject of further debate at the Council meeting on 9 January 2013 an indication was given by the Mayor regarding the short term and long term affects of the Council Tax Freeze Grant. The focus of attention needed to be on where benefits could be gained in making a positive difference such as maximising the opportunities of interest which had been demonstrated by the private sector in the Town.
Whilst acknowledging the positive signs Members referred to the difficulties of the role of Mayor in terms of engaging with the public but striking a balance in not unnecessarily raising expectations. The Mayor advised the Board of apparent overall changes in less people attending Community Council meetings and public meetings. The importance of any consultation/engagement process was to ensure that correct messages were given to the appropriate audiences.
Members concurred that many of the strategic priorities highlighted had often been raised as issues of interest and/or concern at ward surgeries. As an example, specific reference was made to the issues around Ayresome Industries and of the detailed work which had been undertaken and the need for further work to examine the opportunities for diversification.
Members supported the view to examine the current level of car parking with a view to attracting more people from Middlesbrough and from other areas into the Town Centre which was regarded as an important element of the Town's regeneration.
As Members commented on the successful DigitalCity partnership with Teesside University and growth in the digital sector the Mayor concurred that the importance of such a development and the need to raise awareness should be further promoted and of surrounding developments.
In discussing the capital programme a Member suggested the feasibility of holding a briefing session to which all Members would be invited to attend with a view to exchanging ideas on possible changes to the format of the Capital Programme to reflect the Council's current situation and raise ideas for possible long term investment such as the benefits of solar panels where appropriate such as at Hemlington Library.
The Mayor concurred with the Member's suggestion for a briefing for all Members of the Council in relation to the Capital Programme and also to provide additional information with a view to further promoting the Boho Zone the commercial sector of the Town's digital media and technology.
ORDERED that the Mayor be thanked for the information provided.