Agenda item

Presentation on the Role of Scrutiny

The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support will attend to make a presentation. The current terms of reference for this Scrutiny Committee are attached.


The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support referred to the Council’s review of Scrutiny in October 2019, which had agreed that a report back on its operation would take place after a year of operation.  As Members were aware, the pandemic had resulted in a different approach to scrutiny, meaning it had concentrated on the Council’s prioritisation of Covid related issues. He was now able to confirm that the review would resume, with a report to be made back to the Executive in the autumn. Members were reminded of the important role of scrutiny within the democratic process, which included:-


·         responding to public questions.

·         Member questions to Portfolio Holders on their particular spheres of responsibility within the Council.

·         initiating a call-in of decisions by the Executive, adopting a more proactive approach which included members of scrutiny bringing matters published on the Council’s Forward Plan to the two Scrutiny Committees for further investigation before consideration by the Executive, and

·         more in depth studies of topics of interest through task and finish groups or a spotlight review.


Throughout the last year the Scrutiny Programme Board had continued to meet to inform the scrutiny agendas and has been working on a way which would encourage Members to take a more proactive approach by formally seeking suggestions for future topics of business. A pro-forma with guidance notes would be sent to those Members which would help frame their requests against certain criteria and which were mindful of the Council’s resource commitments. The Programme Board would in time be able to form a work plan of future items of business for scrutiny.


A Member commented on a reduction in agenda topics and agreed that scrutiny should have a multi layered approach of regular items of business, consider items from the Council’s Forward Plan as well as have some flexibility to respond to pertinent issues, as well as continue to offer support for the Council in the role of critical friend.


The Corporate Manager Democratic Services and Civic Support responded to a number of comments by Members: -


·         another authority in Devon who had taken a similar approach to their scrutiny process, had taken a period of time to adjust and re-establish that role as a critical friend.

·         the former pre-scrutiny approach led to a more protracted decision making process and was not always a benefit.

·         more Members could now be involved in the scrutiny process and ensure that policy and budgets were scrutinised and managed as they should be to hold the Executive to account.

·         the greater public participation was now embedded in the scrutiny process, but also at the Executive and Council, and

·         the Council’s financial challenges were spread across the organisation and it was necessary to be mindful of any suggestion of additional resources for scrutiny.


A Member suggested future business should also be on the Scrutiny agenda, as a way of being more transparent and to further engage Members. The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support reminded the Member that there was already the opportunity to request an item on the scrutiny agenda provided that there was sufficient time before the meeting. The inclusion of the Scrutiny work plan, in time, would ensure Members were actively engaged. Councillor Sills and also Councillor Vizard as Chair of the Customer Focus Scrutiny Committee welcomed any suggestions made by Members to take back to the Board.


Members noted the update.


Supporting documents: