Agenda item

Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements through the Chairman.


The chairman, on behalf of the committee, congratulated Cllr Helen Belcher on receiving her OBE. He also made the following announcements:


·       The committee would hold an informal meeting on 19 January to discuss aspects of the budget proposals relevant to the committee’s remit. The chairman offered to relay any of the committee’s queries to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee on 24 January.

·       The vice-chairman and he would hold their annual meeting with the executive on 25 January to discuss areas of focus for overview and scrutiny for the year ahead.

·       The committee would receive an online briefing about the Schools Forum budget on 24 January, as well as in in-person briefing on 31 January about budget pressures. He noted that the annual Schools Forum budget was in excess of £400 million.




The chairman then read out a statement in relation to the item about Wiltshire Council Funded Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services considered at the previous meeting:



Following this [25 October] meeting I have received representation from Barnardo’s regarding their Wiltshire Healthy Minds Service. Barnardo’s viewed the recording from the meeting and raised what they called “serious concerns and misleading statements” advising that they had submitted the required information via a written report to officers on 6 October. I have raised this matter with the corporate director, who has undertaken an investigation and been in communication with Barnardo’s.


Subsequently, officers have apologised and accepted this was unacceptable. In response to Barnardo’s concerns the following actions have been agreed;


• That I will read out this statement to ensure transparency.

• That the report Barnardo’s submitted on the 6 October is shared with committee members. I understand that this was circulated to all members prior to this morning’s meeting.

• Create a description box under the select committee recording of 25 October 2022 on the Wiltshire Council website with some details of this issue. I understand that this has also now been completed.

• Ensure commissioners fully discuss the detail of select reports with providers ahead of publication.


Officers accept that this situation was unacceptable, but isolated, and I have asked them to assure me that this situation is not repeated and that this can be mitigated by advising providers when reports are coming to select committee.  This will then provide the opportunity to be present at the meeting for discussions.


If I might add on a personal note, I am absolutely horrified that we have had to deal with this issue and I unreservedly apologise to both the committee and our partners that the committee was misinformed in this way, and that subsequently our debate was so negatively impacted by it.


Perhaps though this unfortunate incident does remind us all of one of the most important rules in quality scrutiny work, that we should seek every opportunity to triangulate all information that we receive as councillors.


Members have heard me on many occasions go on about what has led to failures in other authorities, and even our own back in 2011. One of the key failures by councillors in all of these incidences has been that they have accepted at face value all of the information presented without challenge or accepted that they should not be asking the questions they were asking.


Neither of these is acceptable and if there is any learning for members from this sorry episode it is that we should all redouble our efforts in asking questions and not accepting face value answers without double and triple checking.


And for officers, please be mindful that when we as members are challenging answers, it is because of our desire to ensure we are always working with the best, most reliable information possible. It’s not that we don’t believe or trust you, but it is our jobs to challenge, to probe and to explore and try to make sure we are working with the whole truth.