Overview and scrutiny
Overview and Scrutiny is the process whereby executive decision-makers are held to account. Overview and Scrutiny Committees also have an important role to play in the council’s policy and budget development process. Overview and Scrutiny Committees must be made up of councillors who are not members of the Cabinet and must reflect the political balance of the council.
The council has three Overview and Scrutiny Committees to oversee council services. One of the Committees also scrutinises local health services, undertaking many of the council’s health scrutiny functions.
Overview and Scrutiny activities
Consultation on the Policy Framework
As part of the council’s Policy Framework, the Cabinet consults with the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee on its policy proposals as they arise, before making a final recommendation to the full council for approval and adoption. The process for consulting the Overview and Scrutiny Committee is set out earlier in this Guide.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committees may also be consulted from time to time on other matters which fall outside the Policy Framework in order to get the views of Members on as wide a range of issues as possible.
Directorate Plans and Performance Management
The Overview and Scrutiny Committees considers the Plans produced for each of the council’s Directorates as they apply to their particular terms of reference. As well as informing Members of the work programmes for the various services covered by the Directorates, the Plans also set the indicators to be reported to the Committee as part of the performance management framework. Further to this process, the Committee is able to call for more detailed reports on area of identified concern.
Scrutiny of Executive Decisions - The "Call-in" Process
In the event that two or more councillors feel that an executive decision made by the Cabinet or a Township Committee/Sub-Committee should receive a further consideration they can, within a set timescale, “call-in” the decision for scrutiny by submitting a formal notice with reasons and a supporting statement to the Chief Executive.
The Chief Executive determines whether the request is in order and, if in order, the item is referred to the first available meeting of the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Committee considers the decision made and the report which led to that decision, the reasons why the decision has been called in, and the response of the decision maker and the relevant Officer. At least one of the Members who called-in the item and a representative of the decision making body are required to attend the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.
On the basis of the evidence provided, the Committee has three options, namely:
- To accept the decision, in which case the decision takes immediate effect; or
- To refer the decision back to the decision maker for re-consideration, providing reasons as to why they feel it should be re-considered;
- If it is considered the decision may be contrary to the council’s budget or an agreed policy, to refer the matter to full council for determination as to whether the original decision should be upheld or whether it should be referred back for reconsideration.
A called-in decision can only be referred back to the decision maker once. The decision maker should take into account the views of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and/or full council in re-considering the decision, but will be within its rights to re-affirm the original decision.
The Committees may identify topics for study and review to be undertaken by a Working group of councillors who do not serve on the Cabinet. These studies or reviews can consider activities and policies of the council, or activities and policies which cut across other public service providers. The Committee will determine the Terms of Reference, together with the timetable and study methodology, for such exercises and approve recommendations for submission to the Cabinet (and/or other bodies as appropriate).