Agenda item

Presentation on the Role of Scrutiny

A presentation will be made by the Director Corporate Services.

The current terms of reference for this Scrutiny Committee are attached.




The Director Corporate Services gave an overview presentation on the role of scrutiny and its importance within the Council’s democratic process. She advised that this presentation was a precursor to a bespoke session on scrutiny planned for later in the year on the 7 September, from Bethan Evans of Governance Training and Consultancy Ltd.


The following points were highlighted in the presentation:-


·           the current scrutiny system in Exeter was introduced in October 2019 with two scrutiny committees, namely Strategic Scrutiny Committee and also Customer Focus Scrutiny, with 14 members on each Committee, none are Members of the Executive.

·           the terms of reference for the Strategic Scrutiny Committee covered Council wide strategic matters, relevant policies, corporate health and safety and climate change and sustainability.

·           the scrutiny work plan was set by the Scrutiny Programme Board, which was chaired by Councillor Allcock, a non-Executive Member and comprised of the Chairs and Deputy Chairs of both Scrutiny Committees.

·           the Scrutiny work plan is generated by Members of Scrutiny who were encouraged to submit areas of scrutiny using a Scrutiny proposal form. Once completed, the Strategic Management Board are invited to comment on how that topic aligns with the Council’s corporate objectives and priorities.

·           the Forward Plan, published monthly sets out all of the Council and Executive decisions to be taken over a 12 month period. Members should look at the business coming forward and take an active part in policy formation before the Executive makes a decision on that matter. 

·           there was the opportunity to explore scrutiny of a topic with a review through a Task and Finish Group or Spotlight Review with any recommendations presented to Scrutiny and Executive as part of the decision making process.


The role of Scrutiny was important and offered Members an opportunity to become involved in the process including:-


·           to assist with the review of Council policy, look at service delivery issues including budgets,

·           to enable public engagement with the ability to ask questions about Council responsibilities,

·           holding the Executive to account through a mechanism of call in, under Standing Order 17 of the Constitution, whereby decisions made by the Executive that had not been implemented could be brought back to Scrutiny for further consideration. The grounds for a call in were

a) the process was either deemed deficient,

b)failed to consider alterative action,

c) failed to take account of relevant factors or

d) the decision was wrong in fact or law.

·           the call in required seven members from either Scrutiny Committee.

·           the Scrutiny Committee could consider a number of options including, to take no further action or make a request to the Executive to reconsider the decision, but may not change the decision. Call in does not apply to urgent decisions or recommendations to Council.


The Director Corporate Services responded to the following Members’ comments: -


·           the seven members of call in could be a Member of either Scrutiny Committee, but the topic would be considered by the relevant Scrutiny Committee.

·           the committee system was aligned to the 2011 legislation and size of population. Exeter’s population permitted a Leader Cabinet model rather than the Directly Elected Mayor/ Cabinet option.

·           the Scrutiny training offered by Bethan Evans would be specially tailored to Exeter.


The Chair of the Scrutiny Programme Board referred to the Scrutiny proposal form, which was available on the Council’s intranet. The Democratic Services Officer would send the link and also circulate the document for information.


A Member referred to statutory guidance on scrutiny from the Government published in 2019, which was still a useful document for Members new to scrutiny.


Members thanked the Director Corporate Services for the presentation.

Supporting documents: