What is Scrutiny?

The purpose of scrutiny (or overview and scrutiny, to give it its full title) is to contribute to policy development, protect and improve local services and to hold to account the local authority Cabinet and other local decision makers.  Working in a similar way to parliamentary select committees, scrutiny involves local councillors who are not in the cabinet.  In Swansea the aim of overview & scrutiny is:

To provide ‘critical friend’ challenge to the executive (and decision makers) by undertaking a range of activities to ensure that improvement is delivered, sustained and embedded

In practical terms the work of overview & scrutiny follows four stages:

  •       Work planning to identify issues and to decide how to address them
  •       Gathering evidence through consultation and research
  •       Making recommendations to the Cabinet, to Council and to other decision making bodies
  •       Following up to check that agreed actions have been taken and an impact made

Legally speaking, the overview & scrutiny function was set up under Section 21 of the Local Government Act 2000.  This means that every local council needs to have at least one overview & scrutiny committee.

In Swansea there is a single Scrutiny Programme Committee that delegates work to informal task and finish groups including:

  • Inquiry Panels – Inquiries are in-depth pieces of work that gather a wide range of evidence in order to form conclusions and make recommendations on major issues of concern.  An Inquiry will normally take about 6 months to complete.
  • Performance Panels – These panels focus on one aspect of Council services and regularly monitor performance, highlighting where things are going well but also raising issues of concern and making recommendations for improvement where required.
  • Working Groups – Usually one off meetings to quickly consider a topic of concern.

Overview & scrutiny is intended to involve local people in the work of the Council.   Meetings are held in public and anyone is welcome to come and watch.  The Council website provides details of the meetings, including online agendas, minutes and reports.  More general information about overview and scrutiny can be found on our web pages on the same site. You can find more general information about overview & scrutiny from the Centre for Public Scrutiny who are an independent national organisation promoting good scrutiny at all levels of government.