Councillor workbook: scrutiny

As a councillor, you have been elected by your local community because they believe you will represent them in ensuring the council provides the services they need, to the standard they expect. By understanding their needs you can bring a different perspective to the decision making process to that provided by the council executive or officers, which helps decisions to be more robust.

Councillor development

The Local Government Act 2000 introduced a new political management system for local councils in England and Wales, requiring them to have a separate ‘executive’ in the form of a leader, or elected mayor, and cabinet.

To provide a counterweight for this, the Act also introduced the concept of ‘overview and scrutiny’, whereby every council with an executive management structure is required to have an overview and scrutiny committee. This enables the rest of the council to scrutinise the executive by investigating their decisions and policies, and issuing reports and recommendations where any shortcomings are identified.

The Localism Act 2011 gave councils the option of converting to a committee system form of governance. Councils that have chosen this option are not required to have a separate overview and scrutiny committee, although they may choose to do so. It is still expected that scrutiny will take place within committees to identify where improvements need to be made. Whichever governance system a council operates, scrutiny is an essential part of ensuring that local government remains transparent, accountable and open, resulting in improved public policies and services.


A councillor's workbook on scrutiny COVER
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