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Scrutiny Committees

Scrutiny at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council

Overview and Scrutiny (more commonly known as "scrutiny") is a statutory function and helps to ensure that local public services are delivered effectively, efficiently and in the best interests of residents. It is an important mechanism through which public accountability can be exercised. Scrutiny has wide ranging powers to investigate areas of local interest.

To assist investigations scrutiny can question decision takers, call in expert witnesses or hear evidence from other local stakeholders (eg local residents, businesses or community groups). Investigations are not restricted to Council run services, as any area of interest to the local community may be investigated by scrutiny councillors. All Councillors (except Cabinet Members) can participate in the scrutiny of the Council and its partners.

The Council's Scrutiny Committees

The Council has five scrutiny committees which carry out the statutory scrutiny function.

Role of Scrutiny

There is no single definition of Scrutiny; it therefore should be viewed as an umbrella term covering a wide range of possible roles. However, the key legislative roles are: -

  • Holding the Cabinet to account - acting as a watchdog and check and balance on the decision making of the Cabinet, individual Cabinet members, and Senior Officers of the Council
  • Policy Review and Development - Checking to see whether existing policies are effective; and helping to shape new ones;
  • Reviewing and scrutinising the performance of the Council and help drive improvements in services;
  • External scrutiny - reviewing or investigating matters of particular concern either within the Council or within the Community.

Above all, the process needs to be firmly focused on both matters of importance and in making a difference, as these elements are key to scrutiny reaching its potential and being of value to the Council and to local people.

The scrutiny process provides the opportunity for Councillors and Co-opted members to:-

  • Examine the various functions of the Council;
  • To ask questions on how decisions have been made, to consider whether service improvements can be put in place and where necessary make recommendations to this effect;
  • Champion issues of local concern to residents;
  • Participate in the development of new policies.

Scrutiny Committee Work Programmes

Each of the five Scrutiny Committees sets its own annual work programme to review policies, decisions and services of the Council and other organisations operating in the County Borough to ensure they meet the needs of local communities. The Committees have agreed their work programmes and will be considering the items and issues as shown in the document at their meetings over the coming twelve months or so.

Some key principles Councillors considered when they prepared the work programmes include: topics should add value and support corporate priorities; where appropriate involve partners, stakeholders and the public; allow some flexibility to enable topics to be included as they arise; seek improvement in service provision; and be achievable within available resources.

Getting involved at Scrutiny Committee meetings:

Scrutiny Committees have arrangements to allow people who live or work in the local authority area to make representations on any matter being discussed. There are many different ways you may wish to get involved in the work of scrutiny, including:

You could also apply to become a co-opted member on one of the council's Scrutiny Committees.  As a co-opted member you will participate on one of the Council's Scrutiny Committees with elected Councillors and other co-opted members.  You will use your skills and knowledge of issues and services within the county borough to add to the discussion and debate. 

There is no salary or allowance for the role, but reimbursements are made for reasonable travel expenses.

Scrutiny Good Practice Guide

This Scrutiny Good Practice Guide is useful for Councillors and Co-opted members and also includes information for Council officers attending scrutiny meetings. There is also information for outside organisations and individual members of the public who are invited to attend a scrutiny meeting. The guide explains the role of scrutiny and also what you can expect when you attend a meeting, amongst other things.

Scrutiny committees cannot:

  • Make decisions on behalf of the Council
  • Scrutinise specific decisions of the Planning Committee, Licensing Committee and Rights of Way Committee that have quasi-judicial decision-making responsibilities
  • Deal with individual queries, concerns, or complaints. If you are not satisfied with a service or have a complaint, please contact the relevant officer responsible for that service area. However, if you are not able to resolve the query please use the council's corporate complaints procedure or raise the matter with your local Councillor.
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