Agenda item

Presentation on the role of Scrutiny

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



The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support spoke on the role of scrutiny and its importance within the Council’s democratic process in acting as a critical friend for the Authority. He set out the following three distinct aspects of the scrutiny process:-


·         holding Executive to account by analysing and reviewing their decisions such as through the Call-In process, provided this met one of the four criteria set out in the Council’s Constitution. This process was not applicable when the Executive made recommendations to Council as, at that stage, the whole Council was effectively the ultimate scrutinising authority. Members could also question Portfolio Holders on their areas of responsibility and how they were meeting the objectives and priorities of the Council. The Scrutiny Programme Board had agreed a new proforma for this purpose and this process would commence in the September/October cycle of Scrutiny Committees;

·         a more proactive approach with the opportunity to contribute to the policies and procedures of the Council through its Forward Plan, which is published monthly, providing advance notification of matters to be brought forward and which can be considered first by a Scrutiny Committee prior to report to Executive; and

·         a second proactive approach involved the examination of specific matters in greater detail through Task and Finish Groups, a good example being the recent meeting of the Homelessness Task and Finish Group. Such a group typically comprised five to six Members and was able to call witnesses, both internal and external, to assist with its review. An alternative was a Spotlight Review which could comprise a similar number of Members and which, typically, was likely to meet on one occasion only.

The Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support also made the following points:-


·         the Scrutiny Programme Board considered requests for further examination and scrutiny of issues with regard to Council priorities and objectives. Members of the Scrutiny Programme Board had developed a proforma for Members seeking to suggest a topic to set out the detail. This profoma was shared with the Strategic Management Board for comment before being presented to the Scrutiny Programme Board for determination and timetabling to ensure both an equal spread of business between the two Scrutiny Committees and to achieve the best use of the resources available;

·         the creation of a portal on the Council’s intranet which included guidance on scrutiny procedures and tips on how to make scrutiny work. It also included relevant forms to bring forward matters for scrutiny as well as links to the Local Government Association, Local Government Information Unit and Centre for Public Scrutiny sites;

·         two recent examples of in depth scrutiny were the detailed questioning of the progress report from Exeter City Futures and the City of Exeter Greenhouse Gas Inventory at the Strategic Scrutiny Committee and the meetings of the Joint Strategic Scrutiny and Customer Focus Scrutiny Committees examining the Exeter City Development Fund;

·         the opportunity, through Standing Order 18, for Members to request a matter being placed on a Scrutiny Committee agenda;

·         a meeting of the Governance Review Board was to be held to further examine the Council’s Governance arrangements. This could lead to recommendations to Council to make any necessary changes. Previous examples of changes had been the introduction of the opportunity for the public to put questions to Committees and Council and a fine tuning of the petitions scheme; and

·         because of resource implications, the decision making meetings of Council, the Executive and Planning Committee were recorded but not Scrutiny Committee meetings. This would be re-visited by the Governance Review Board who would be asked to look at any plans to broadcast meetings of Scrutiny.


Responding to a Member’s query, the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support confirmed that a further role of Scrutiny was to scrutinise issues that impacted on the city as a whole and were not necessarily functions of the Council itself.


The Chair thanked the Corporate Manager Democratic and Civic Support for his presentation and emphasised the importance of scrutiny being a critical friend of the Council. He also referred to the membership of the Scrutiny Programme Board as the Chairs and Deputies of both Scrutiny Committees, with the Board chaired by Councillor Packham, a non-Executive Member. It was an open and transparent process and he encouraged Members to come forward with topics for discussion.


Members noted the report.


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