Scrutiny Committees

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Introduction

Scrutiny is ultimately about calling the executive (Cabinet) to account and ensuring that the Council and its partner organisations deliver the best possible quality services to the residents of Peterborough and that all decisions made have a positive outcome for the City.

Peterborough City Council has four Scrutiny Committees to cover all of its service areas and those of partner organisations. These are:

'The members of all four committees also meet as a joint committee throughout the year to examine the Council's budget proposals. This is known as Joint Scrutiny of the Budget.

Each committee is made up of Councillors who are not part of Cabinet.  Different political parties are allocated seats in proportion to the Council as a whole. The Chairman of each committee is appointed by Full Council.

Each Scrutiny Committee meets at least six times a year. The agenda of each of meeting is set by members of the Committee with input from Senior Officers. Officers provide reports on a particular subject area and are questioned on them by the committee. Members may decide that additional scrutiny is required of a particular service area. This could include asking for a briefing note or setting up a task and finish group. Cabinet Members are regularly asked to provide an update on progress made within their portfolios.

The Centre for Public Scrutiny have developed ‘four principles of good scrutiny’ to measure how effective a council’s scrutiny functions is as follows: 

  • Provides a constructive ‘critical friend’ challenge
  • Amplifies the voices and concerns of the public
  • Is led by independent people who take responsibility for their role
  • drives improvement in public services

For more information, please visit the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

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Legislative background

Local Government Overview and Scrutiny was established by the Local Government Act 2000. Prior to the year 2000, Council decisions were made by Full Council or meetings of committees. This was known as the Committee System and one committee would usually oversee a particular set of services or departments. The Act instead created a separate ‘Executive’; usually a Leader and Cabinet, to make decisions. The Act therefore required Councils to establish one of more Overview and Scrutiny committees to hold the executive to account.

Find out more in the Housing of Commons Briefing Paper 'Overview and scrutiny in local government'.

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Call-in

One of Scrutiny’s most powerful tools is the ability to ‘call in’ a decision made by the executive. Any Key Decision made by a Cabinet member (a CMDN) or by Cabinet as a whole may be ‘called in’ by the relevant Scrutiny Committee. A decision is key if it involves the Council spending or saving over £500,000 or if it significantly affect two or more wards.

After a decision is made, the relevant scrutiny committee can call-in the decision within three days of it being taken. The committee will then hold a meeting to review the decision and can choose one of the following three options:

  • Refer it back to the decision making person or body for reconsideration, setting out in writing the nature of its concerns and any alternative recommendations. This will normally be considered at the decision making body’s next schedule meeting; 
  • If it considers that the decision is outside the Council’s Budget and Policy Framework, refer the matter to the Council after seeking the advice of the Monitoring Officer and/or Chief Financial Officer; or 
  • Decide to take no further action, in which case the original executive decision will be effective immediately. 

If the call-in is upheld and is referred back to the decision maker with a recommendation, a response would be required within 10 days as to how this was being taken forward.

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Task & Finish Groups

Task and Finish Groups are time- limited, cross-party groups which are established to examine a particular topic in more detail. They then report back to the Scrutiny Committee which established them and may make recommendations for endorsement and submission to Cabinet.

Current Task and Finish Groups are:

  • Task and Finish Group to Review Fly-Tipping and Waste Policy
  • Task and Finish Group to Review Air Quality

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How to get involved

If you would like a topic to be discussed at a future Scrutiny Committee meeting, please use the public scrutiny suggestions form.

Councillors will consider your suggestions at the next work programming meeting.

Councillors on the relevant committee will determine if they wish to place it on a scrutiny agenda. If your suggestion is not suitable for discussion at an overview and scrutiny committee we will suggest an alternative way of taking it forward.

Please note: that you should only use this form for strategic matters relevant to the whole city. If you have an individual complaint, please refer to Peterborough City Council’s Complaints Procedure. The Council also operates a petitions scheme, details of which can found online.

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Contact the Democratic Services team

If you have any further questions regarding Peterborough City Council’s Scrutiny Committees, please contact the Democratic Services team by email to scrutiny@peterborough.gov.uk or by calling 01733 747474.

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