What is scrutiny?
Scrutiny involves publicly examining and questioning the decisions made by the leadership of an organisation. Effective scrutiny is an important part of local democracy.
East Sussex County Council is run by elected councillors. Whilst the budget and policy framework is set by all councillors at Full Council, most of the day-to-day decisions are taken by the Council’s Cabinet or individual Lead Members who sit on the Cabinet.
In order to ensure that other members who are not part of the Cabinet are able to have their say in day-to-day decision making, by law, all local authorities with a Cabinet must also have scrutiny committees. These committees let other councillors have the opportunity to scrutinise the decisions of Cabinet or individual Lead Members.
How does scrutiny work?
Scrutiny committees aim to work as a ‘critical friend’ to the Cabinet to help ensure that the Council’s services are delivered efficiently and effectively, are in line with the agreed budget and policy framework, and take into account the needs of the residents of East Sussex.
Scrutiny committees have a range of powers to help them hold the Cabinet to account, and they may scrutinise and make recommendations on almost any matter affecting East Sussex or its residents.
A scrutiny committee can:
- ask Lead Members to attend their meetings to justify their decisions and explain how they are being implemented
- ask senior council officers to attend meetings to account for the performance of Council services
- carry out detailed reviews of issues and make recommendations to Cabinet to change or improve Council services, which Cabinet must respond to
- ‘call in’ a Cabinet decision if they believe it may have been taken incorrectly, if certain criteria are met. Following scrutiny consideration, the decision-maker might proceed with the original decision or make an amended decision.
- help develop the Council’s budget through the Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources (RPPR) process
- listen to the concerns and opinions of residents and organisations and ensure that they are represented
- invite outside organisations and representative groups to offer views on the Council’s services or specific issues
- consider any petitions referred to the committee in line with the Council’s Petition Scheme
- consider a Councillor Call for Action from a councillor in relation to an issue in their local area if all other attempts to resolve it fail
The Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee has a similar scrutiny role in relation to local NHS organisations and services. It has a specific role to review proposals by the NHS to change health services locally.