Overview and Scrutiny
Overview and Scrutiny in Pembrokeshire
The Local Government Act 2000 introduced major changes to the way in which Councils make decisions. The Act enabled Councils to introduce new political structures, including one involving a Leader and Cabinet model (the Executive) and Overview and Scrutiny Committees. The Executive is responsible for taking key decisions about services in accordance with the policies adopted by the Council.
Overview and Scrutiny Committees monitor performance, contribute to policy development and review and investigate matters which affect the County and its residents. Another function of Overview and Scrutiny Committees is to balance the Executive's powers, if necessary, by holding the Executive to account by examining and questioning their decisions.
In March 2016, following a review by the Corporate Governance and Democratic Services Committees and recommendations in the Welsh Audit Office Corporate Assessment of Pembrokeshire County Council in 2015, Councillors voted to introduce five new Overview and Scrutiny Committees from September 2016 to replace the previous ‘thematic' Committees.
Guide to Scrutiny in Pembrokeshire
As a result of the Local Government Act 2000, changes were introduced to political structures within Councils which altered their decision making processes. These changes allowed for the introduction of a Leader and Cabinet (the Executive) model, as well as at least one Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Within this structure, the role of Overview and Scrutiny Committees is to hold the Executive to account, by reviewing, investigating and challenging decisions, contributing to Policy development and monitoring performance. The aim of scrutiny is to;
- Improve the Council’s performance
- Ensure that services delivered by the Council provide value for money
- Ensure that Council services are receptive to local needs
- Engage with the public and communities about decisions which affect them
Overview and Scrutiny Committees cannot make decisions; they can only make recommendations to the Executive or the Council. They also cannot become involved with concerns or complaints from individuals which do not affect the wider community.
Each Overview and Scrutiny Committee has a forward work programme which provides details of what the Committee will scrutinise over a 12 month period. Work programmes consist of items that will be, or have been, considered by Cabinet (pre and post decision scrutiny), departmental performance monitoring or items of interest or concern to Committee members or to the communities they represent. Members of the public may also put forward suggestions for items to be discussed by Overview and Scrutiny Committees and provide written submissions in relation to matters being considered by a Committee. For this reason, forward work programmes are designed to be flexible and may change to accommodate issues that may arise within the year and which are within the remit of Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
Chairs and Vice-Chairs
Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees should work together to support the work of their Committee, through;
- prioritising the work of the Committee
- ensuring Committee members are engaged and have the opportunity to contribute and have their views heard
- working closely with officers to agree the business for each meeting and set the agendas
The following list outlines what a Scrutiny Member should and should not do to ensure that the scrutiny function is discharged successfully and to ensure the aims of scrutiny are met;
- ensure that they understand their role fully, so that they are able to contribute at meetings and be part of the ‘critical friend’ process
- not use meetings to pursue personal agendas or air individual grievances
- prepare for meetings by reading papers, making notes and formulating challenging questions
- not raise subjects that are not on the agenda
- ask positive and challenging questions
- not make statements rather than ask questions, or try to score political points
- contribute to setting forward work programmes and be prepared to assist in any Task and Finish groups
- try to ensure that they attend every meeting.
Pembrokeshire has five Overview and Scrutiny Committees;
Each year an Annual Report is produced which reviews the work of the Committees over the previous year. The report focuses on the work the Committees have carried out, the differences the work of each Committee has made, key outcomes, training and development undertaken by Committee members and challenges for the Committees in the year ahead. Overview and Scrutiny Annual Reports are presented to Council and can be viewed on the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Web pages.
Overview and Scrutiny Committees have support from Democratic Services Officers who provide advice and guidance to the Chair, Vice-Chair and Committee members and to any working groups established to undertake detailed investigations into particular areas of the work programme. Officers also co-ordinate the preparation and gathering of reports for consideration at Committee meetings.
Scrutiny provides opportunities for members of the public to get involved with the work of the Council. If there is a topic that you feel strongly about or one in which you have a particular area of expertise, you can make a request to speak at an Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. A protocol is available on our Scrutiny web pages which explains how this process works. Alternatively, members of the public can submit written views on a matter being considered by a Committee which is already on the Committee’s work programme, or can suggest a topic for Scrutiny. Forms are available on the Scrutiny web pages along with work programmes for each Committee, which list areas for Scrutiny over the coming months.