A general guide to scrutiny

What is the role of Overview and Scrutiny?

What is a detailed Scrutiny Investigation?

Who can be scrutinised?

What is a Call In?

How can members of the public become involved?

Becoming a witness and submitting evidence

What is the role of Overview and Scrutiny?

The role of the Overview and Scrutiny is to:

Challenge performance
Involves scrutiny reviewing council services to ensure they are providing value for money, ensuring robust performance management mechanisms are in place, ensuring targets are met, along with making sure that services are looking to continuously improve their performance.

Policy Review and Development
Involves reviewing existing policy to ensure it remains effective and fit for purpose, or suggesting new policy and monitoring its implementation by making recommendations to the Executive. This contributes to better decision making by the Council, the Executive and Committees.

Holding the Executive to account
Involves scrutinising decisions of the Executive at a number of different stages of the decision making process, to ensure that the right decisions are made in the right way and at the right time and that the process is open, transparent and accountable.

External Scrutiny
Involves examining the way in which external organisations e.g. local NHS Trusts and other partners contribute to the benefit of the District and recommend ways in which these bodies may improve their contributions.

Reflect the concerns of the public
Includes promoting awareness and understanding of Overview and Scrutiny amongst the general public, as well as representing and engaging with diverse communities across the district. This enables councillors to fulfil their community leadership role by allowing issues of concern to be brought forward and considered by the Committees.

Scrutiny does not make policy decisions, this is the responsibility of the Executive. Scrutiny makes recommendations to the Executive, Area Committees, Officers, Full Council, and in the case of Health scrutiny the board of the NHS body being scrutinised. For those recommendations to be effective they have to be made by a fully involved Scrutiny Committee backed up by good research and consultation with reasonable conclusions and recommendations.

Overview and Scrutiny in Bradford

There are five Overview and Scrutiny Committees made up of Councillors from all political parties. Each Committee has nine Elected Members. Some Committees also have Co-opted Members from outside the Council, for example school governors, representatives from environment groups and members of the public.

The Committees are:

The Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee also had a co-ordinating role.

How does a Scrutiny Committee Work?

Scrutiny Committees are the Council’s ‘watchdogs’, examining its decisions and recommendations as well as monitoring the performance of local services. They are also ‘think tanks’ openly exploring issues and examining services or policies.

They provide a check and balance to the work of the Council, by taking steps to ensure that the Executive Councillors who make decisions about these services are held to account for their actions and that the decision making processes are robust and transparent.

Each Committee sets an annual work programme in June / July, and this is regularly reviewed throughout the year. The meetings are open to the press and public.

What is a detailed Scrutiny Investigation?

Scrutiny Committees can undertake investigations into a specific topic.

The first stage of a detailed scrutiny is to set a ‘Terms of Reference’ agreed by the Committee, detailing exactly what the scrutiny will look at and how it will be carried out.

The Committee will then collect evidence from relevant people and organisations (‘interested parties’) so that the members of the Committee can produce a public report that covers their findings, conclusions and recommendations.

Evidence can be received in a variety of ways such as from:

  • written submitted evidence 
  • surveys 
  • public meetings.

Who can be scrutinised?

Scrutiny Committees also look at how other organisations in the district are providing important services to the people of the district. This can include other public organisations, such as health service, or private or voluntary organisations.

Through this, they help the Council as a community leader.

What is a Call In?

Where there is concern about a decision which has been taken by the Executive or an Area Committee, Overview and Scrutiny Committees have the power to “Call-In” for consideration the decision before it is implemented.

The Scrutiny Committee will consider the decision and then deal with the matter in one of the following ways:

  • Release the decision for implementation 
  • Refer all or part of the decision back to the Executive or Area Committee, to reconsider in light of the Scrutiny Committee’s comments 
  • Refer the decision to full Council for consideration

How can members of the public become involved?

Overview and Scrutiny encourages greater involvement of residents of the district, in how Council services are run and provided. The Committees meet regularly to discuss important issues, and members of the public can attend by just turning up. It provides an opportunity for your views and opinions to be considered.

Suggesting a topic for a ‘scrutiny’

The Committees welcome suggestions of topics for scrutinies and will consider issues put forward by any members of the public, interested groups or businesses.

If you know of an issue you think would warrant review, please refer to the points below to ensure that it is a suitable subject for scrutiny and then fill in our Scrutiny Suggestion form or email us at Scrutiny@bradford.gov.uk

Suggestion for reviews must:

  • affect a group of people living within the Bradford District 
  • relate to a service, event or issue in which the Council has a significant stake or over which the Council has an influence 
  • not be an issue which Overview and Scrutiny has considered during the last 12 months 
  • not relate to an individual service complaint

If you need any help or advice in preparing your request for scrutiny, please contact us.

Attending meetings

Each Committee meets approximately once a month. Meetings normally take place in City Hall, Bradford and they are open to the public. There are seating areas in each room, where you can sit and listen to proceedings. Check the Council Minutes pages for the agendas for meetings and to confirm the venue.

Minutes and agendas

Agendas are published 5 working days before a meeting, and are available on the Council Minutes website.

Public inspection copies of the papers are available at the City Library in Bradford, Ilkley Area Office, Keighley Information Centre, Keighley Town Hall and the Committee Secretariat Office in City Hall, Bradford.

Becoming a witness and submitting evidence

Becoming a witness

Sometimes, when carrying out in-depth investigations of Council services, a Scrutiny Committee decides that they would like to invite a particular organisation or individual to talk to the Committee at one of their meetings.

Councillors have the opportunity to discuss issues first hand with the experts and it gives the public and external organisations the opportunity to potentially influence Council policy. The discussion will contribute to the production of a final report at the end of the enquiry.

If you feel that you’ve got something important to say, or you’re an expert in a particular issue a Committee is investigating, then you can contact the Scrutiny Team to arrange to speak to that Committee.

Submitting evidence

When a ‘Scrutiny’ on a particular matter is being undertaken by a Committee, a key part of the evidence gathering is to invite ‘interested parties’ to submit their views and suggestions.

This gathering of evidence is critical to the effectiveness of the scrutiny and is vital that it represents a wide range of views. The Committee is very grateful for individuals or organisations that submit written evidence and contribute to the rigour and depth of the scrutiny.

The term ‘evidence’ is used to cover any comments, facts or views about the matter of the scrutiny that the interested party may have, and a copy of the Terms of Reference that were agreed by the Committee at the start of the scrutiny can be supplied on request. It is very helpful for any evidence to cover any recommendations for action by the Council or others, that the interested parties would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its final report.

The process is as follows:

  • Through a press release or targeted letters, interested parties are invited to submit evidence on the subject of the scrutiny. 
  • All submitted evidence (written documents/statements) is regarded as being in the public domain unless agreed otherwise with the Committee. 
  • The Committee considers all evidence in the preparation of the scrutiny report. Upon examination of the written submitted evidence, the Committee may choose to invite certain interested parties to attend as witnesses at a public hearing to further discuss the subject of the scrutiny. A briefing note is available for people invited to appear as witnesses.

The outcome of a ‘Scrutiny’ is a report from the Committee that is made public. This report will contain the findings and the recommendations of the Committee. These recommendations may be directed to the Executive of the Council or to other external bodies/agencies.

Local NHS bodies must provide information about the planning, provision and operation of health services to the Committee responsible for the scrutiny of its service.

Officers from local authorities are encouraged to maintain close-working relationships with organisations to ensure clarity exists on the information required and timescales involved. To that end the Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee in partnership with Health organisations have developed a protocol, which seeks to establish the roles each organisation plays in carrying out the health overview and scrutiny function.