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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 16/10/2001
Overview and Scrutiny Protocol



WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY PROTOCOL

Introduction

1. Overview and Scrutiny Committees are a key element of executive arrangements. They are the means by which the Executive is held to account for its decisions on the implementation of Council policy and provide an opportunity for a methodical review of performance and the effectiveness of policies. The Scrutiny function will not however apply to individual decisions of non-executive and other properly constituted committees.

2. Effective scrutiny is essential to achieve enhanced accountability and transparency of the decision-making process. Overview and Scrutiny Committees also have a key role in the policy development process, in reviewing budgetary and general policies, making recommendations either to the full Council or the Executive on future policy options and providing the framework for accountable, transparent decisions. The Council is committed to establishing a constructive and creative relationship between the executive and scrutiny roles in Waverley.

Constitution

3. There will be three Overview and Scrutiny Committees which will reflect the portfolios of the Executive. Each Committee will have a maximum of nineteen members and the membership will reflect the political balance of the full Council. The three committees will look at the Council as a whole and take a corporate view of the Council’s services.

4. The Overview and Scrutiny Committees are:-

i) Strategy, Resources and Best Value
ii) Housing, Welfare and Community Liaison
iii) Planning, Environment and Leisure

They will relate to the Executive Portfolios as outlined in the Executive Protocol.

5. Members of the Executive cannot be members of Overview and Scrutiny Committees.

6. The Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen will be nominated annually at the Council’s Annual Meeting or at the Council meeting setting them up. In the event of a single party Executive the Chairmen of the three Overview and Scrutiny Committees shall be elected from nominations put forward by the larger opposition group, with candidates for Vice-Chairmen elected from nominations put forward by the majority group.

7. Overview and Scrutiny are key roles for councillors outside the Executive from both the majority and opposition groups. External representatives may be co-opted onto Overview and Scrutiny Committees by the Council on an ad hoc basis, up to a maximum of three on each committee, and although they will have no voting rights, they will ensure that, where relevant, matters of concern to them can be placed on the agenda and discussed at the relevant committee. These members will be bound by the Council’s constitution.

8. Overview and Scrutiny Committees will meet in open session with the press and public able to attend, except for the consideration of exempt or confidential information. They will generally meet once a cycle, unless convened to consider called-in matters.

9. Public notice of meetings of Overview and Scrutiny Committees will be given and the agenda will be available for public inspection at least three clear working days before each meeting.

10. Minutes will be taken by officers of each meeting of the Committees and published.

11. Standing Orders will apply to the procedures at meetings and the existing scheme for substitutes will continue.

12. Any member who has a pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest in any matter on the agenda must disclose the interest and may be required to withdraw from the meeting when appropriate, in accordance with the National Code of Local Government Conduct.

13. Overview and Scrutiny Committees shall have access to all relevant background papers and documents considered necessary to make an informed judgement, in the case of any dispute the Monitoring Officer will adjudicate and if the documents are of a confidential nature, members must respect their confidentiality and use them only in relation to the work of that Committee.

14. Any member of an Overview and Scrutiny Committee may ensure that any matter relevant to the remit of the Committee be placed on the agenda and discussed at a meeting of the Committee, but this does not give any right to an individual member to commission reports.

Working Practices

15. The guiding principle of the overview and scrutiny function is that the process should make a positive contribution to the work of the Council.

16. The scope of the Committees covers all aspects and functions of both the Executive and the Council’s other regulatory functions and the Council needs to decide collectively the terms of reference of each.

17. The mechanism for having matters considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committees would be by one of the following routes:-

v By direct reference from the Executive
v By direct reference from the Council
v In addition to the call-in powers, the Chairman of the Committee can identify issues from the rolling programme of key issues for overview.
v By a decision being called-in from the Executive Decision Bulletin by three members of the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee (see also Standing Order 44)

18. Overview and Scrutiny Committees are encouraged to seek views from as many areas as necessary to get a balanced understanding of the effects of Council policy and decisions made by the Executive. In addition to this, they can require members of the Executive or Chief Officers of the Council or their nominees to attend their meetings and answer factual questions or give explanations relating to policies and decisions. Chief Officers or their nominees may be asked to justify and explain any advice they have given to the Executive but will not be expected to comment on the merits of any proposals.

19. The appropriate portfolio holder can attend an Overview and Scrutiny Committee where matters relating to their area are included in the agenda, and shall have a right to address the Committee.

20. Within the overall framework agreed by the Council, there will be an opportunity for Overview and Scrutiny Committees to formulate their own work programmes based on the forward plan of major items produced by the Executive, on a minimum of four monthly cycle. This may include any business which should be reviewed on the Council’s behalf. Full Council may alternatively wish to decide what policy reviews or key issues should be of priority for a Committee in the coming year.

21. It is intended that Overview and Scrutiny Committees will be involved from an early stage in the decision-making process, examining issues before decisions are taken by the Executive, rather than only after a decision is taken by operating the call-in procedure. Accordingly, matters relating to the budget or policy framework will normally be considered by the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee before they are submitted to the Executive. In addition, the Overview and Scrutiny Committees may identify any item for the rolling programme for overview. The comments of the appropriate Committee will be reported to the Executive.

22. The call-in procedure should be used if the Overview and Scrutiny Committees take issue with any particular decisions or recommendations. It is a mechanism which should not be used to call-in every individual decision taken by the Executive , as this would be detrimental to the decision-making process.

23. Overview and Scrutiny Committees may “call-in” a decision of the Executive in circumstances where:-

v An alternative course of action is proposed, which could include not taking the action proposed or any other action.

v A decision is thought to be outside the terms of the policy framework or approved budget. This should be discussed with the Monitoring Officer and, if the Monitoring Officer and the Committee agrees, it would need consideration of full Council to determine a matter not in accordance with policies adopted by the Council. 24. An executive decision may only be called -in by an Overview and Scrutiny Committee once.

25. Where a decision is called-in, the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee should meet within seven working days of the call-in. If the committee decides it is unhappy with the decision, it can refer it back to the Executive for reconsideration within five working days. If a committee considers a decision is not within the Council’s policy framework, then with the agreement of the Monitoring Officer it may refer a decision to the full Council.

26. An Overview and Scrutiny Committee, with the agreement of full Council can set up a Sub-Committee to deal with a particular issue, on a time limited basis, and delegate any of its functions to it.

27. Overview and Scrutiny Committees should not be whipped.

28. Members of the public can ask questions at Overview and Scrutiny Committees in accordance with the provisions in Standing Orders.


Officer Support

29. The Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen will hold a briefing meeting with the appropriate officers to finalise the committee agenda.

30. Overview and Scrutiny Committees will be serviced by the Committee Services Team.

31. To be effective, Overview and Scrutiny Committees must have effective and properly resourced support from officers, and appropriate senior officer support will be provided. Members will need help in researching the policy area or decisions they are examining, in deciding which avenues of enquiry to pursue and which witnesses to call.

32. Overview and Scrutiny Committees may authorise Waverley media releases on their work.

33. Overview and Scrutiny Committees will initially meet once a cycle and additional dates will be identified as reserve dates to hold meetings to consider called-in matters.

“Call-In” Process

The process is proposed as follows:-

Step 1 A list of Executive decisions will be published and notice given that the decisions will be implemented after five working days from date of publication unless called-in under this procedure.

Step 2 Within the period of five working days, three members of the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee may call a meeting of the Committee to review a decision, by notifying the Chief Executive by telephone, fax, e-mail or letter.

Step 3 Within seven days of the deadline, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will meet and may resolve by majority vote to:-

a) propose an alternative course of action, or
Step 4 If the matter is referred back to the Executive, it must reconsider the decision in the light of the reference from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s decision and would decide whether to change it before adopting a final decision. The chairman (or vice-chairman in their absence) of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee is able to attend and address the Executive meeting during discussion of the matter.