February 9th 6.15pm
Committee Rooms, Civic Centre, Pershore
The O and S committee is one of the most important in the council. Councils operating executive arrangements are required to create an Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which is composed of all councillors who are not on the Executive Committee of that council, minus the number of minority party members necessary in order for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to meet the rules on proportionality defined in the Local Government And Housing Act 1989 (ie. the respective sizes of the political groups on the council). I am not a member of the committee, however, I was asked by the chairman to attend this one, as substitute for one of the members unable to be there. There was also an item on the agenda regarding a report into the recent Revenue and Benefits Shared Services with other councils. The author of the report, with others, is Cllr Rob Adams, chairman of WDC O/S committee. Cllr Adams asked me to chair this particular section of the agenda. This task would normally be handled by the Vice Chairman of the O/S committee, however she was also away.
Functions of Overview and Scrutiny
Holding the Executive accountable
This is often undertaken by questioning Executive Members and council employees as to decisions made. By law, Overview and Scrutiny must have the right to ‘call-in’ decisions – ie ask the decision-maker to think again, or to refer the decision to the full Council if it is believed that the decision-maker has taken a decision in contravention of the Council’s budget or policy framework.
Development of the policy framework is a shared responsibility between the Council’s Executive and the full Council itself. Many Councils have a procedure for detailed inspection of proposals by members on Overview and Scrutiny committees before the Executive brings final proposals to Council.
Performance and policy review
Overview and Scrutiny Committee or Select Committees undertake in-depth reviews of particular aspects of council service or operation. This is hoped to be a significant influence on future decisions of the Executive and inform developments both in policy and administrative practice.
Scrutiny of public services delivered by external organisations
The government wished to see Councils take a stronger role in scrutinising public services outside their own organisation. Accordingly, the Health and Social Care Act 2001 provided the Overview and Scrutiny functions of unitary authorities and county councils statutory powers to call in witnesses from local NHS bodies, and make recommendations that NHS organisations must consider as part of their decision-making processes. Similarly the Health and Social Care Act 2001 places requirements on NHS organisations to consult with health overview and scrutiny committees when considering substantial developments or variations to services. The Police and Justice Act 2006 will create similar scrutiny powers for external organisations with a role in crime and disorder, and the 2006 local government white paper proposes an even more wide-ranging external scrutiny role.