Scrutiny reviews

Scrutiny reviews are time-limited projects that look at issues in detail. Scrutiny committees set up review boards, agreeing their membership and what they will look at.

A scrutiny review will usually take evidence from a range of sources including:

  • service users
  • public
  • staff
  • other councils
  • voluntary and community organisations.

They allow members to develop a detailed understanding of an issue, and then put forward careful recommendations to help residents.

The scope and scale of a review can vary depending on the issue in question.

Full scrutiny reviews

A full scrutiny review involves three to five scrutiny members and usually lasts six to nine months. The review board usually looks at a particular County Council service or a complex issue affecting residents. It involves in-depth research and gathers evidence from witnesses.

The report outlining the board’s findings and recommendations is presented to its scrutiny committee, and then to the Cabinet and Full Council.

Table top scrutiny reviews

Table top scrutiny reviews are smaller, but just as important. These usually involve about two scrutiny members who examine a tightly-defined issue, and might only need a few evidence-gathering meetings.

The report – outlining the findings and recommendations – is usually only presented to its scrutiny committee.

Choosing a topic

Each scrutiny committee decides on its own programme of work and what topics to review. Factors that might influence the topics chosen include:

  • concerns about particular services
  • services highlighted as priorities by the County Council
  • services that may have generated a large number of complaints from residents or users
  • an issue that a member of the public has raised with a member.

Gathering evidence

Evidence is gathered in a variety of ways including interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, panel discussions, visits and desk research. Scrutiny members put detailed questions to experts and hear the perspective of those who use or provide the service.

By gathering such a wide range of information on a particular issue, the scrutiny members can ensure that any recommendations are evidence-based.