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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 16/10/2001
WBC Constitution - Summary of the Position of the Majority Group - Submitted by the Leader of the Council



1. The Local Government Act 2000 and its associated guidance call for clear accountability in decision-making. The majority group believes that the current (October 5, 2001) arrangements do not fulfil that requirement. Further, the majority group believes that the failure to provide such clear accountability is intrinsic to the current constitutional arrangements.

2. The majority group proposes that the functions of Overview and Scrutiny should be separated in order to resolve this problem. Overview and Scrutiny fulfil two quite distinct functions in the decision-making process, and separating them would enable each to be properly fulfilled.

3. Overview forms an important part of the early stages of policy development, and provides a critical opportunity for non-Executive members to contribute to the formulation of policy. The natural flow of the policy process is from initiation, generally as part of the policy of the administration and for the majority group, through the Overview function, to the Executive, and then as recommendations to the Council. Overview is essentially a creative function.

4. Scrutiny is essentially an examining function. This can take several forms, as envisaged by the Act. Specific decisions of the Executive may be scrutinised, the implementation of policies may be scrutinised, or the lack of policy initiation or revision may be scrutinised. The skills required for Scrutiny work are significantly different from those required for Overview work, and this should be recognised in committee selection, thought that is not to say that some Councillors may not have important contributions to make in both disciplines. And, of course, the right of any non-Executive Councillor to speak on a particular topic at any meeting must be retained.

5. As previously stated, the majority group therefore proposes the separation of the two functions, and further proposes that there should be two Overview Committees and one Scrutiny Committee. Experience to date, with the pilot, suggests that there is sufficient workload for only two Overview Committees. There have been suggestions that it might be appropriate to have two Scrutiny Committees, in workload terms matching the two Overview Committees, but on balance it is considered that a single Scrutiny Committee would more accurately reflect the anticipated workload.

6. Since Overview forms part of the natural flow of policy development and policy is generally initiated by the majority party and is brought to the Council in the form of recommendations from the Executive by the majority party, it is proposed that the Overview Committees should be chaired by the nominee of the majority party. Members of the minority parties would, of course, continue to contribute to policy development as members of those Committees.

7. It is the view of the majority party that the Scrutiny Committee, since its function is to examine critically the decisions and non-decisions of the majority party, should be chaired by the nominee of the minority parties.

8. It is proposed that the officers be instructed to prepare appropriate documentation for submission to the DTLR, consistent with the above proposals, and that all these matters should form recommendations from the Executive to the Council.