Scrutiny – illusive!

Our local democracy has its dullest moments when long-worded council reports, not always giving an accurate* picture and costing the residents a fortune, are internally scrutinised in the overview and scrutiny committee meetings, a sort of political arena, generating more paper work.
Occasionally the environment becomes somewhat entertaining when the chief officer and leader of the council are tackled by the councillors, mostly the opposition councillors.
Following is such a scene from a meeting in January 2016 – we have added questions to suggest how the answers could have been followed through in a meaningful scrutiny:
How are the council engaging residents on its Regeneration proposals?
The Leader: the council had introduced a Residents Regeneration Panel that has generated good discussions on general issues relating to place shaping – (who has evaluated the process to really involve all residents?).
The Council has secured funding for the regeneration of Wealdstone. What specific projects will take place?
The Leader: money was being spent on creating a housing zone, helping business start up in Wealdstone and further investment in public realm. It was important to recognise that Wealdstone was one of the most deprived areas in Harrow and required investment – (meat on the bones?)
The average price of purchasing a house in Harrow is now £500k. How can nurses, social workers etc. afford to live in Harrow and what progress is being made on building more affordable homes in Harrow? (affordable housing is a key issue in the forthcoming London elections!)
Response: the regeneration project for Harrow would generate thousands of new homes (level of support and cooperation by the Harrow opposition?)
The cap on care which was introduced by the Care Act has now been pushed back to 2020. However to provide the implementation funding for it to be put into social care. Has any response been received by the Council?
ML2The Chief Executive: nationally the ageing population and adult social care cost added £700 million worth of cost to Local Government every year. Better joined up working was required in providing health and social care to achieve the best outcomes for residents – (Citizen Advice’s research report ‘Hidden charges in care homes’ found that older people living in care homes risk getting a poor deal for a variety of reasons and that the delay in implementing rest of the Care Act, access to affordable care home options as well as lack of certainty about care funding makes it all the more important that robust consumer protections are in place – what is the Harrow situation?)
*Over statement: “Schools in Harrow performed exceptionally well and did not by definition have an underperforming school” – p11: Minutes of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 17 November 2015
In 2015, several state funded primary schools were below and some well below the local and national % achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths.
In 2015, some state funded secondary schools/ academies were below and one well below the local and national % achieving 5+ A*-C GCSEs (or equivalent) including English and maths GCSEs.
In 2015, no state funded secondary schools/ academies were in the top 100 GCSE results table.
In 2015, no state funded secondary schools/ academies were in the Top 100 A-level results table.
In 2015, in A-level average points score per subject, a number of state funded school/ academies were below the C grade – on average Harrow being in grade C, was lower than Barnet, Brent and Hillingdon which were C+.