Overview and scrutiny is a key part of the council's governance arrangements and provides accountability and assurance, as well as a vehicle for elected councillors to contribute to policy development and review. Scrutiny committees have the overall aim of driving improvement to services to the local community.
Scrutiny is led by elected councillors, who are not members of the council's executive (Cabinet) and cannot make executive decisions. Scrutiny committees may, however, make reports and recommendations to the Cabinet.
As well as scrutinising the council's own services, scrutiny committees have the power to look into the provision of local health services and issues which affect the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of the county.
They can do this in a number of ways:
- Holding the executive to account for its decisions, (for example through questioning Cabinet members in committee)
- Reviewing council policies, their implementation and impact on local people
- Scrutinising decisions before they are made (pre-decision scrutiny), and after they are implemented (performance review) and
- Policy development.
Our scrutiny committees
There are five scrutiny committees at Herefordshire Council, these are:
- Children and young people scrutiny committee
- Connected communities scrutiny committee
- Environment and sustainability scrutiny committee
- Health, care and wellbeing scrutiny committee
- Scrutiny management board
Scrutiny committees are made up of elected members of the council, as well as some co-opted members. The membership is cross party and politically proportionate.
Scrutiny committees review and scrutinise council and community services, question local decision makers, statutory partners, community organisations and expert witnesses and publish a record of their proceedings and their findings. They may also make reports or recommendations to the council (Full Council or the Cabinet) and relevant partners organisations.
Each committee has its own work plan to prioritise the issues they wish to scrutinise during the year.
Scrutiny committees are held in public and have formal agenda and minutes, which are published five clear days ahead of a meeting.
Importantly, scrutiny committees do not make executive decisions and they are independent of the executive. They acquire evidence through reports, submissions of evidence or questioning witnesses in committee and may make recommendations to the Cabinet and other local decision makers. Where a scrutiny committee makes a report and recommendations to the Cabinet, it has a duty to agree an executive response.
Task and finish groups
A scrutiny committee may appoint a task and finish group for any scrutiny activity within the committee's agreed work plan. A committee may also decide to undertake a task and finish activity itself as a spotlight review which may happen in a single session.
Questions in committee
Cabinet members, council officers and representatives of local partner organisations are asked to provide information and answer questions at scrutiny committee meetings. This underpins and demonstrates accountability of the executive. It also helps to inform members of the committee about how the service currently works and to help inform its conclusions and any scrutiny recommendations for improvement.
Expert witnesses are invited to provide information to scrutiny committees. These may be service users, academics, businesses, service providers, other local authorities, or anyone who can help inform a scrutiny review.
Scrutiny committees may co-opt people onto a committee. We recognise the valuable input and different perspectives co-opted members bring into the council's decision-making process. Co-opted members could be representatives of an organisation, an interest group or they may be co-opted for their specific expertise or experience.
A scrutiny committee may co-opt a maximum of two non-voting people as and when required, for example for a particular meeting or to join a task and finish group. Any such co-optees will be agreed by the committee, referencing the agreed work plan and/or task and finish group membership. A co-optee's role is to complement, rather than replace, the role of elected councillors.
If you would like to consider volunteering as a co-optee, please contact us for more information about the types of co-optee we require and our recruitment process.
The role of the Statutory Scrutiny Officer and the Monitoring Officer
The Statutory Scrutiny Officer and the Monitoring Officer are the responsible officers for overseeing the scrutiny process and ensuring that it operates correctly and effectively.
Members of the public may submit written evidence for any matter being considered by scrutiny committees or a scrutiny task group. If the written evidence is considered relevant and appropriate it may be included for consideration by the committee. Appropriate material should be relevant to the subject being considered, provide substantive material evidence and non-political in nature.
Members of the public have a right to attend committee meetings. You can also watch the proceedings on live webcast on our YouTube Channel.
You have the right to ask public questions at meetings and these will be answered by councillors or the appropriate officer in attendance.
You can also make suggestions for the committee's work plans by suggesting a topic to be considered by a committee.
Anyone can suggest a topic for scrutiny to review by contacting the scrutiny officers. Suitable topics will be strategic policy and services, not individual complaints or enquiries.
For more information or to suggest a topic for scrutiny please email GovernanceSupportTeam@herefordshire.gov.uk