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Overview and scrutiny

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What is overview and scrutiny?

Wiltshire Council is run by an elected leader and cabinet, often referred to as the council’s executive. These are powerful positions taking key decisions on behalf of the people of Wiltshire and it is therefore appropriate that they are held to public account for their actions. This is done through the council’s overview and scrutiny function, which is undertaken by the non-executive councillors and others invited to help.

Overview and scrutiny is a statutory activity of the council, which means its powers and responsibilities are set out in the council’s constitution. The relevant sections can be viewed on the Democratic Services online document library (article 6 and part 8).

The overview and scrutiny process is supported by a dedicated team of three officers, supplemented by others from the council’s corporate office. They provide policy advice, undertake research, write reports, take meeting notes and produce meeting agendas.

Structure

Wiltshire Council has an overview and scrutiny management committee and three specialist select committees:

  • Health (including the NHS, public health and adult social care)
  • Environment (including highways, waste and transportation)
  • Children (including education, vulnerable children, youth services and early years)

The management committee co-ordinates the work of the select committees and also covers internal services such as finance, performance, staffing and business planning. Most overview and scrutiny work is done by small groups of elected members who meet to review single issues in detail. Interested parties are often invited to contribute to this work as witnesses. The group then produces a report presenting their findings and recommendations to the cabinet and others as necessary on how the issue or service could be improved.

The corporate office also supports the police and crime panel and respective task groups in holding the Police and Crime Commissioner to public account.

For more information on how this fits into the overall decision-making of the council, please view the PDFcommittee structure. committee structure. 332kb

Purpose

Overview and scrutiny makes sure that decisions are taken based on sound evidence, including the views of those with an interest in the matter, and are in the best interests of the people of Wiltshire. It has powers to require decision-makers to attend meetings and answer questions on any matter under review and also provide written evidence. These can also be from other agencies and contractors, often referred to as partners, who are delivering public services in Wiltshire. Overview and scrutiny can also seek the advice of experts outside of the council to help it in its work.

Overview and scrutiny does not make decisions itself, but publishes findings and recommendations which must receive a response. Its meetings are conducted in a respectful and non-adversarial way, demonstrating constructive challenge of the executive or the council’s partners. Most of its meetings are held in public.

Work programme

Overview and scrutiny is selective in what topics it looks at so that it can add value to the council’s biggest priorities. Wherever possible it helps shape council policies when they are first being designed, as well as scrutinising proposals before they are finally agreed. A list of the topics which will be considered by overview and scrutiny is published in its forward work programme.

The work programme focuses on the commitments given by the council in its Business Plan 2013-2017 and approaches its work in the following way:

  • Better outcomes for the people of Wiltshire
  • Adds value to the way decisions are reached
  • Works constructively with the cabinet
  • Challenges positively as a critical friend
  • Bases its findings on good evidence
  • Learns from others

Call-in

Overview and Scrutiny committees can ‘call in’ decisions made by Cabinet – but not yet implemented – to enable further consideration of the facts. Call-in enables non-executive councillors to ensure that the principles of decision making set out in the council’s Constitution are adhered to.

Call-in is intended to be used in exceptional circumstances when councillors are concerned that the principles of decision making have not been followed and when representations to the decision maker about this have not resolved the issue. Please take a look at our Guide to the Call-in process.

Councillor Call for Action (CCfA)

CCfA is a process that enables councillors to deal with issues of concern in their local communities. When concerns arise – either as a result of information from individuals, community groups or the councillor’s own observations, they are able to trigger a response from service providers and ensure the concerns are dealt with. What makes the CCfA different from a more general request for scrutiny is the focus of the CCfA is on neighbourhood or locality issues, and specifically the quality of public service provision at a local level.

CCfA is only used as a last resort. The CCfA should represent a genuine local community concern – based on local councillors’ judgements – and be a persistent problem that a local councillor has not been able to resolve through local action and discussion with the cabinet or relevant services and agencies.

For more information please take a look at our Guide to the CCfA process.

Quarterly newsletter

The overview and scrutiny newsletter is designed to provide the highlights of the work and achievements of each quarter and indicate where there are opportunities for members to get involved. For further information email committee@wiltshire.gov.uk

Publicising overview and scrutiny

We actively publicise overview and scrutiny activities and promote our successes through a range of methods:

The council’s communications team also support the work of overview and scrutiny and will engage in social media as appropriate.

Contact us

If you wish to know more about overview and scrutiny and the team that supports it, including committee and task group responsibilities, please contact:

Henry Powell - Acting overview and scrutiny manager

Adam Brown - Senior scrutiny officer (maternity cover)

Emma Dove - Senior scrutiny officer

Marie Gondlach - Senior scrutiny officer (maternity leave)

Corporate Office
Wiltshire Council
County Hall
Trowbridge
Wiltshire
BA14 8JN

committee@wiltshire.gov.uk

Tel: 01225 718071

Contact Details (LiveLink)

Multiple Contacts:
eMail:
Telephone:
Out of hours:
Fax:
Postal Address:
In Person:
DX:

Last updated: 18 January 2017

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