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Overview and scrutiny

What it is and how you can get involved in it.

In Boston the overview and scrutiny function operates alongside the leader and Cabinet form of executive arrangements. The Local Government Act 2000 largely swept away the traditional committee structure, but enabled councils to set up new arrangements examining issues, developing policy and holding the Cabinet to account.

This is a key role for non-executive members of the council (all members outside the Cabinet) and is exercised at Boston through the overview & scrutiny - corporate and community committee and the overview & scrutiny - environment and performance committee.
 
The council also has an audit committee, consisting of 9 members, which is separate to the scrutiny arrangements and reports direct to the Cabinet and full council.

What is scrutiny?

Scrutiny is about councillors working alongside providers, partners and local people to improve policies and services. Although overview and scrutiny is not new - councillors have always asked questions about performance and service delivery - there is a much greater emphasis on non-executive councillors working together to perform the role of 'watchdogs' (examining decisions), 'think tanks' and community leaders. In turn, these mechanisms help to enhance community engagement, accountability and transparency. The legislation, regulations and guidance allow for a least seven tasks:

• To consider and investigate policy issues, develop policy proposals and make recommendations to the council and/or executive (Cabinet);
• To consider the budgets and plans proposed by the executive (Cabinet) for the policy framework;
• To prepare advice on issues before the executive (Cabinet), either at the request of the Cabinet or on the initiative of overview and scrutiny itself;
• To "call-in" and review executive decisions before implementation;
• To review work being undertaken on best value, making appropriate inputs to that work;
• To review performance and the "corporate health" of the organisation as a whole; and
• To support the role of the council in community leadership, reporting on issues affecting the area and its citizens, and on the work of public bodies in the area, including local health services.

Scrutiny committees do not make decisions - they make recommendations to the Cabinet or full council where they think it is appropriate. Final decisions are taken by Cabinet or full council. Membership - only non-executive members may serve on scrutiny committees, though Cabinet members may attend meetings to give evidence.

Overview & scrutiny - corporate and community committee

The overview & scrutiny - corporate and community committee consists of 11 members. Substitute members are permitted.

Overview & scrutiny - environment and performance committee

The overview & scrutiny - environment and performance committee consists of 11 members. Substitute members are permitted.

For membership of each, please use the meetings and agendas link.

Meetings

The overview & scrutiny committees each meet about six times per year, but also have 'special' meetings for urgent issues. In addition, all scrutiny members will attend joint meetings to consider issues of common interest such as the budget strategy. The overview & scrutiny committees also meet to consider "call-ins". Smaller, time-limited, task and finish groups also play a part. These reviews involve looking at issues in detail, searching out best practice elsewhere and coming up with ideas for improvements and change. Councillors will take evidence and research from a range of sources and will draw together their conclusions at the end of a review in a report. This report is then presented to the main scrutiny committee. Meetings take place at the Municipal Buildings or other locations as appropriate and are normally held in public. The business to be discussed is set out in advance in an agenda.

Future committee meetings are listed on the calendar of meetings.

How does overview and scrutiny work?

We have produced a scrutiny guide for use by councillors, officers, witnesses and others with a general interest in the remit and work processes of the scrutiny committees - please see the pdf document in the box below.

Scrutiny - having your say

There are a number of ways in which you, as a member of the public, can become involved and keep up to date with the work of the scrutiny committees:

If you have any thoughts about issues that you feel would benefit from an 'in depth' review, please let us know in writing or by e-mail. Please note: scrutiny does not deal with individual queries, concerns or complaints.

If you are not satisfied with a service received from the council, please use the council's complaints process.

Annual report

A report is written each year on the performance of the Overview and Scrutiny function - please see the pdf document in the box below for the latest annual report.

Related documents

Size Name
[389kb] Annual Scrutiny Report The latest annual report on the Council's scrutiny function
[494kb] Scrutiny guide A guide to the council's overview and scrutiny function

The documents in this section are in Adobe Acrobat format (pdf). You will need Acrobat Reader to view these files which can be downloaded from the Adobe website free of charge.