Scrutiny helps the council develop new policies and plays an important role in monitoring council performance.
By holding the council's Cabinet to account it ensures that services respond to the needs of the local community and are efficient, cost effective and easy to use.
Under the current system of local government, most council decisions are taken by the council's Cabinet. This concentrates a lot of responsibility into the hands of a relatively small number of councillors.
Scrutiny acts as a check and balance to the Cabinet and seeks to involve the public to ensure that decisions are made in line with council policy and in the public interest.
Scrutiny provides councillors with the opportunity to question Cabinet members, officers and others in order to gain knowledge around an issue and make effective, evidenced-based recommendations. It also enables members to capture the views of their constituents to provide community leadership. The principles of effective scrutiny are: being member-led, taking a consensual approach, being evidence based, and providing constructive challenges.
View more about the principles.
Scrutiny in Brent
The scrutiny function has three scrutiny committees: the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee and the Housing Scrutiny Committee. There are a total of 18 scrutiny meetings held during the municipal year, six per committee. This enables an integrated approach within each committee to scrutiny of thematic and related policy and services issues. It also gives the opportunity for members to develop expertise across services and hold detailed discussions.
View more on the scrutiny structure.
What can Scrutiny do?
The Scrutiny Committees cannot make decisions. Their influence comes from recommendations made to the council's Cabinet or external organisations. Scrutiny can investigate different issues and ask witnesses to attend meetings to inform them of their views. It can also hold its own consultation groups to help it understand how affected parties may feel. Evidence based recommendations give additional weight to the influence of scrutiny. There are steps scrutiny committees can take if it disagrees with a decision made by the Cabinet. A decision can be called in to one of the Scrutiny Committee and referred back to the Cabinet with recommendations for change.
View the full capabilities of the scrutiny committees.
The scrutiny committee will be able to establish task and finish groups which will focus on particular topics or issues of local concern. Through these time-limited reviews of local issues and services, scrutiny activities will not be limited to the members of the committee. Rather all non-Cabinet members can and should participate. These scrutiny reviews will also create opportunities for a broad range of organisations, stakeholders and the public in Brent to get involved in the work of scrutiny.
View more on the task groups
Each Scrutiny Committee will sets its work programme for the year, usually at its first meeting of the year. It is important that the committee has a focused work programme that makes best use of the resources available to it. The work programme should reflect the committee's aims and objectives as well as add value to the work of the council. It is up to the committee to select the items for inclusion in its work programme, but ideas are brought together from a number of sources to assist members in their choices.
View more on Scrutiny work programmes
How to get involved
Scrutiny Committee Data and Information Requests
The Scrutiny committees are able to request data and information during committee meetings to assist them in understanding the details of items that are being scrutinised. This data or information is not always available to hand and is subsequently be provided at an agreed date after the committee meeting. Once the data or information is received it is attached to the published minutes of the meeting.
A decision made by the council’s Cabinet or a Cabinet committee, or a key decision by an officer, can be called in for review before it is implemented. Decisions can be called in by five non-executive members or by the relevant Scrutiny Committee. If a decision is called-in, that decision cannot normally be implemented until it has been considered by the relevant scrutiny committee. An urgency procedure is in place for any decision that cannot afford to be delayed.
The relevant Scrutiny Committee is required to meet within 15 working days of the date on which a call-in is accepted as valid. The Committee may decide to refer the matter back to the Cabinet or other decision maker, along with the reasons why the Committee thinks it should be reconsidered. The Cabinet or other decision maker will then decide whether to implement the original decision or review the decision based on the views of the relevant Scrutiny Committee. Alternatively the Committee can decide that the matter should not be referred back to the Cabinet or other decision maker in which case the original decision will be implemented.
Read more about the call-in process