Agenda item

Introduction to Overview & Scrutiny in Hillingdon


Mark Braddock, Senior Democratic Services Manager, was in attendance for this item and introduced himself as the Council’s Statutory Scrutiny Officer, a post required by all councils; he presented the officer report to the Committee. Members received an introduction to how overview and scrutiny worked at Hillingdon aimed primarily at newly elected Councillors but also as a refresher for returning Councillors.


Members were informed of the purpose and role of Select Committees and how they fit into the Council’s overall governance structure. The Committee noted that the Local Government Act 2000, Health and Social Care Act 2001, Police and Justice Act 2006 (and later Acts and regulations) required councils to establish ‘overview and scrutiny committees’ to:


  • Assist in the development of Council policy;
  • Question and evaluate the actions of the Cabinet; and
  • Have the power to make reports and recommendations to the Cabinet on such matters.


It was also noted that one committee must hold health providers to account, in Hillingdon this was the Health and Social Care Select Committee; additionally, one committee must act as a crime and disorder committee to scrutinise community safety activity and partners like the Police, in Hillingdon this was the Residents’ Services Select Committee. It was highlighted that the remits of Hillingdon’s Select Committees had been aligned to the portfolios of Cabinet Members; for example the remit of the Property, Highways and Transport Select Committee aligned with the remit of the Cabinet Member for Property, Highways and Transport. This remit included the following service areas:


  • Property and Estates
  • Capital Programme – Major Projects
  • Transportation
  • Highways
  • Repairs and Engineering
  • Building Safety / Facilities Management


There were some additional facets to the Committee’s remit in that they were the cross-cutting topic lead on the Civic Centre, Property and Built Assets, in addition to having a non-statutory scrutiny role on utility companies.


The Committee received information as to the duties and powers of Select Committees with their key statutory powers being the ability to ‘Call-in’ executive decisions, to send a report to the Cabinet with recommendations, to require the attendance of individuals at Select Committee meetings and to request certain information. It was highlighted that Select Committees had no direct decision-making powers and that they could only make recommendations to the decision-making Cabinet. The Select Committee’s primary role was described as a critical friend to the decision-making Cabinet.


Members received detail around one of their primary functions which would be to carry out in-depth policy reviews; this was a fundamental way in which Select Committees could influence Council activity. Reviews usually consisted of evidence gathering and witness sessions, with the possibility to conduct site visits should they be appropriate for the review. Policy reviews would conclude with a report containing recommendations to the Cabinet and it was noted that the Committee’s clerk would form a key support role in gathering research and organising the review for the Select Committee. Further to active policy reviews, the Select Committee would review the implementation of past policy reviews which came under their remit; it was noted that the previous Public Safety and Transport Select Committee had conducted a review of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and EV Infrastructure, the clerk agreed to circulate the final report for the EV review to Members as they would be reviewing the implementation of the recommendations later in the municipal year.


Members were also informed about the scrutiny call-in function of the Select Committee which guidance stated that it was only to be used exceptionally when Select Committee Councillors felt that a decision made, that fell within the scrutiny remit of the Committee, needed to be revisited or possibly changed. The Committee were informed of the process for using the online app used by Hillingdon’s Select Committee Councillors to request that a decision be called-in; the process was relatively straight forward, and the minute of each individual Cabinet Member decision contained a link to the call-in app for quick reference. Crucially, it was noted that a majority of the relevant Select Committee’s Members would be required to agree to the request to call-in a decision before the decision would formally be called-in. The call-in window would expire at 5pm, five working days after the date of any decision being made.


The Committee thanked officers for their presentation and stressed the importance of effectively monitoring the Council’s activities in addition to monitoring the implementation of previous policy reviews conducted by the Select Committees.


RESOLVED: That the Select Committee noted the report and the presentation from officers.


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