Topics can come from anywhere. Any member of the public can suggest a topic for Scrutiny. County Councillors can suggest things for scrutiny to look into, and so can teams and individuals who work for the Council. Topics could come from voluntary groups, Community associations or anywhere else.
This is decided by scrutiny members themselves, based on a number of considerations. Every year, O&S conduct a wide public consultation, seeking ideas form partners and the public, which go into establishing a workplan for the year ahead, which is usually agreed in around June. Suggestions for scrutiny topics can come from anywhere, and ideas are welcomed from all sources throughout the year. Ideas can be submitted to scrutiny via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting us on 01772 534580. Suggestions will be put to members to decide if they think the topic needs further scrutiny.
The scrutiny committees are mainly made up of county councillors who aren't in the cabinet. Some of the committees have “co-opted members”. This is the name given to members of the committee who aren't county councillors , but who are experts or people whose views are important. This includes district councillors and parent governors, amongst others.
Scrutiny can look at a wide range of things. It's not just the policies and decisions of the county council, although that is one of the main things scrutiny looks at. Scrutiny can look at anything that affects the lives of the people of Lancashire , whether that's to do with crime, health, the economy, the environment, equality and diversity, and virtually anything else you can think of.
One of the strengths of scrutiny is its flexibility. Scrutiny investigates in different ways, depending on what it's looking at.
Task groups (sometimes called “task and finish groups”) - These are set up to look at issues in depth. Usually they meet a number of times over several months to really get to the heart of the issue. A task group will usually be made up of 5 or 6 county councillors with a special interest in the issue being discussed. They can ask for reports, carry out interviews, go on site visits, run surveys, hold public meetings – in fact, they can do whatever is necessary to make sure they've got all the information they need to make their recommendations.
Committee meetings – These are more formal than task groups. These are fixed meetings of the full Overview & Scrutiny Committees, meeting every 6 weeks, and open to the public. Committees will usually request council officers or cabinet members to attend to present a report on a particular issue. Scrutiny members will then ask questions to help them decide what their recommendations are. Usually, 2 or 3 reports or presentations are dealt with at each meeting.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committees are not decision-making bodies. But they are very influential, and their recommendations carry a lot of weight. They do have the power, in certain circumstances, to “Call In” a decision. That means asking the decision maker to hold off implementing the decision until he or she has formally reconsidered it, in the light of scrutiny's concerns. Scrutiny also has considerable influence when looking at local health services, and in certain cases, can refer its concerns to the Secretary of State.
Scrutiny is most powerful when it carries out its in depth reviews. That's because the amount of research and work that goes into them makes the recommendations they end up making carry real weight and authority. People listen to scrutiny not because scrutiny can force them to, but because they know that scrutiny recommendations are based on genuine knowledge, experience, understanding and insight.