THE FIRST meeting of a new council’s scrutiny committee has taken place this week, with councillors setting their stall out to act as 'a critical friend' to the leadership.

Cumberland Council’s scrutiny committee held its first meeting on Monday.

The new unitary authority for Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland is currently operating as a 'shadow authority' which means that, for one year, it will operate alongside the existing county, city and borough councils.

Councillors on the committee will carry out an important role during this transitional period, scrutinising the work programme of setting up the new council.

On Vesting Day, April 1 2023, the new council will take over as the single responsible authority in the area.

The scrutiny function will continue as a way for members to challenge the executive, ensuring the best possible service for the people of Cumberland.

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Catherine Parkinson, Cumberland Council's interim monitoring officer, presented a report to the committee, setting out its role in the new authority.

This arrangement is in-line with the Local Government Act 2000.

She said: "The 2000 act was the legislation that created the different types of administrations, like you've got in Cumberland with the leader and cabinet model.

"It also created a mandatory requirement that every local authority that had that model of administration should have at least one overview and scrutiny committee.

"That's to be there as a challenge to the executive (leadership), look at what they're doing and ask questions around that.

"But also, as a critical friend, to help in developing policies and look at issues coming up in the council area and to be able to contribute to policies and procedures."

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Chairman of the Cumberland Council scrutiny committee, Mike Hawkins said: "I think you made a really valid point there about being a critical friend. I think that's sometimes missed when scrutiny's talked about."

Councillor John Mallinson asked: "You were talking about the scrutiny panel and you may decide to create sub-committees. Some of us are used to a model of scrutiny where there is more than one scrutiny panel.

"Is the presumption that Cumberland will only have one scrutiny panel, and if so, who says so?"

Ms Parkinson said: "I think it's only just in this shadow year. To keep things compact and focussed during the shadow year. I would expect when you get to your annual meeting next year, there'll be a number of scrutiny committees set up.

"I think the intention is that task and finish groups will be established this year, if you think there's a need for a particular topic to be looked at and done in a timely manner."

During the meeting, Cllr Robert Betton said that the cost of living crisis would be a topic that needs particular work in the future, from the scrutiny committee and Cumberland Council as a whole.

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