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Scrutiny explained


​What is Scrutiny?

Scrutiny ensures a greater number of Councillors are involved in influencing council policy and service improvements, and provide checks and balances on the decisions taken by the Cabinet. 

In Cardiff, this has resulted in the establishment of five Scrutiny Committees:  

  • Children and Young People
  • Community and Adult Services 
  • Environmental 
  • Economy and Culture 
  • Policy Review and Performance
 
Each Scrutiny Committee contains nine Councillors, drawn from political parties within the council membership to mirror the council's overall political composition. The Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee also includes two co-opted parent governors and two co-opted representatives of the Church in Wales and Roman Catholic Dioceses. 
 
Scrutiny is undertaken by elected Members who do not hold Cabinet positions within the council. They work together to ensure accountability, openness and transparency, implementing the Centre for Public Scrutiny's four principles of good scrutiny, which are: 

  1. Provides ‘critical friend' challenge to executive policy-makers and decision makers. 
  2. Enables the voice and concerns of the public to be heard.
  3. Is carried out by ‘independ​ent minded governors' who lead and own the scrutiny role.
  4. Drives improvement in public services. 

 

 

Scrutiny committees usually hold their meetings on a monthly basis. The details of meetings, including date, time and location, are shown on the Council’s Calendar of meetings​​​​​​External link opens in a new window ​​.​​​​​​

The meetings are open to the public, unless confidential, exempt information is being scrutinised; if this is the case, it will be clearly marked on the agenda for the meeting.
 
Usually, the relevant Cabinet Member will give a statement to the Committee and officers may give a short presentation. The Committee may invite other witnesses to give evidence to the Committee, such as partner organisations, external stakeholders, service user representatives and/ or advocates. Members of the Committee will then have the opportunity to ask questions related to the topic being scrutinised. Committees usually consider 2-4 main items each meeting. 
 
At the close of the meeting, members discuss the ‘way forward' and agree comments, observations and recommendations to be submitted to the Cabinet. The Committee will also consider whether a topic requires further Scrutiny. 
 
Occasionally Committees will also receive a ‘Task and Finish’ inquiry report that members of the Committee have undertaken. The Committee is required to give final approval to the report and its recommendations before it is sent to the cabinet.
When scrutinising an issue or topic, members will be presented with background information, details of the service or policy being considered and the key challenges facing the authority in relation to that service or policy.

 

The purpose of questioning at a Committee meeting is to learn from the witnesses, gather information and validate information that has previously been provided.

 

Questioning can help to identify how efficient and effective our services are, how fair they are in providing access to all citizens, whether our services are performing well, what the key risks are, and how they could be improved. 

Setting the work programme for the Scrutiny Committee is an important stage in the scrutiny process, identfying key topics that will be considered in the coming year. Scrutiny Committee members set the work programme with support from their principal scrutiny officer, early in the municipal year.
 
Some key principles for setting work programmes are:
 
  • Topics should add value and support corporate priorities
  • Where appropriate involve partners, stakeholders and the public
  • Allow some flexibility to enable topics to be included as they arise
  • Seek improvement in service provision
  • Be achievable within available resources
  • Sources of information to identify key topics 


Topics for the work programme come from a wide range of sources including:

 

  • Suggestions made by council members
  • Suggestions made by senior management
  • Suggestions made by scrutiny officers
  • The council cabinet's forward plan
  • Corporate performance monitoring reports
  • Suggestions made by partners and stakeholders
  • The council's Corporate Plan and service area business plans
  • Topics from budget monitoring reports and the Council's Budget Strategy
  • Issues from audit and inspection reports
  • Outcomes of public consultation


As well as the topics identified by members, Scrutiny Committees have standing items that they regularly consider, such as service area business plans, budget monitoring and performance monitoring.

 

Once members have assembled the work programme it will be important for them to identify and agree the highest priority topics, those that will add most value through their work. Topics requiring long and detailed examination can be looked at in detail as part of a ‘Task & Finish’ group inquiry and be included in the overall scrutiny work programme.

A Call-In is a process by which a non-Executive Councillor of Cardiff Council can request the reconsideration of a recent official decision made by Cardiff Council’s Cabinet or by a senior officer of Cardiff Council, under delegated authority.

The request for Call-In has to be made within seven clear working days following the publication of the decision. Official decisions are recorded on either the Cabinet decision register or the Officer decision register, as applicable.

View the decision registers​​​​External link opens in a new window .​​​


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