What is the role of scrutiny?
The scrutiny function is responsible for:
- holding local decision-makers to account for the decisions they make
- consider, comment on and challenge the performance and delivery of services
- identify and investigate areas of service delivery which appear to be problematic
- identify options for improving services
- help the council and partners respond to the changes in policy and changes in Harrow
- listen to local people's views on life in Harrow.
Councillors involved in decision-making cannot be members of an overview and scrutiny committee. Scrutiny committees must reflect the political balance of the authority.
Legislation and powers
The Local Government Act 2000 requires local authorities to set up overview and scrutiny committees. The legislation relevant to scrutiny is as follows:
- Local Government Act 2000
- Health and Social Care Act 2022
- Police and Justice Act 2006
- Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007
- Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009
Scrutiny has the power to investigate issues and make recommendations to:
- local council executives
- local health bodies
- crime and disorder partners
- potentially any organisation providing public services
However, scrutiny cannot compel these bodies, it can only persuade and influence them.
The Health and Social Care Act 2001 initially gave scrutiny committees the responsibility for scrutinising the NHS and representing local views on the development of local health services.
In July 2003 the Secretary of State for Health issued a direction that the health committees are required to form a joint overview and scrutiny committee (JOSC) when:
- an NHS body consults with more than one health scrutiny committee (because proposals affect residents in each of their areas)
- those committees consider the proposals to be 'substantial' variations to service delivery
Only the JOSC has the statutory power to request information relating to the issue being consulted upon.
Scrutiny looks in detail at how the services that the council and its partners provide to local people on a day-to-day basis are performing. Scrutiny councillors draw evidence from a wide range of sources. They identify areas where performance is below expectation and consider them in detail. This provides accountability and ensures that plans for improvement are robust.
Currently the Performance and Finance scrutiny sub committee
- monitors the council's quarterly performance reports - councillors highlight areas where things could be improved and makes recommendations.
- picks out areas where scrutiny should investigate further
- tracks progress on recommendations made by scrutiny to see how far they have been implemented
Principles of scrutiny in Harrow
Scrutiny is an independent, councillor-led function that works with local people to improve services.
Scrutiny has a history of adopting an inclusive non-partisan approach to its work. A strong emphasis of scrutiny's work is on making a positive contribution to the development of policy and challenging the effectiveness of local decision-making. Scrutiny's purpose is to:
- hold local decision-makers to account
- consider, comment on and challenge local decision-makers' performance and delivery of services
- identify and investigate areas of service delivery which appear to be problematic (or indeed highly successful)
- identify options for improving service performance
- help decision-makers and the council as a whole to respond to the changing policy environment