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Overview and scrutiny has been a statutory function for local authorities since the the Local Government Act 2000 put decision-making powers in the hands of a cabinet. The overview and scrutiny function was established to hold the cabinet to account for its decisions, and to contribute to evidenced-based policy-making in the council.
Often referred to as Scrutiny, the council’s overview and scrutiny function looks closely at services and issues that affect local people and ways to improve them.
Scrutiny councillors have a responsibility as community leaders to involve local people in identifying issues of concern. They can then review these concerns by gathering information and making recommendations based on what they have found out. They are not restricted to council services – they can look at anything that has an impact on the quality of life of people in St Helens Borough.
Scrutiny councillors also monitor how the council’s services are performing and whether targets are being met, and are able to make recommendations as to whether new policies or changes to existing policies would lead to better outcomes.
The cabinet is the council’s main decision-making body and scrutiny councillors have a responsibility to oversee its work and can challenge its decisions. Unlike the cabinet, scrutiny councillors do not hold any decision-making powers. Nine councillors from the leading party (excluding the Leader) sit on the cabinet and all other councillors can be involved in scrutiny.
There are three overview and scrutiny committees made up of non-cabinet councillors, each with its own remit.
They are coordinated by and report to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, whose membership includes the chair of each panel as well as other non-cabinet councillors.
There are scrutiny link officers at senior management level to provide information and to act as a link between each scrutiny panel and the council departments.
Each year an annual report is produced that covers the work of Scrutiny during the previous 12 months. View our annual report for 2019/2020.
By Post: Scrutiny Office, Town Hall, Victoria Square, St Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1HF
By Email: email@example.com
By Telephone: 01744 67 6277 or 01744 67 6276
Task and Finish Groups may be established by a scrutiny committee for the purpose of reviewing a service, policy or issue that affects the council, its residents or the borough. Evidence is gathered in a variety of ways, including:
When the evidence has been gathered, a report setting out recommendations is produced and presented to the relevant committee. Once agreed by the panel, it is submitted to the overview and scrutiny commission for approval. The report and recommendations is then presented to the cabinet for consideration.
If you are interested in getting involved, there are many ways to do so. These include:
Within each work programme there is flexibility so that as the year progress, items can be added to the programme of each committee if the Chair and committee members are in agreement. Initial topics for each committee's work programme for 2020/21 includes:
Council Rest and Recovery; Budget Scrutiny; Procurement of Service Delivery from Third Parties; Council policy for dealing with abuse of staff; financial monitoring reports; and performance reports.
Care homes response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Children's Services Improvement Plan; Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; Impact of Covid-19 on Schools; SEND Improvement Plan.
The Overview and Scrutiny Commission acts as the general interface with the Cabinet for all overview and scrutiny issues, reviews the council’s budget and forward plan, and identifies possible policy or strategy reviews.
It consists of 12 councillors, including the three committee chairs. In addition, two Church representatives are voting co-optees on the commission. The commission works with the committees to agree an annual work programme and acts as a general interface with the Cabinet.
Councillors on the commission are as follows:
Also on the commission are:
This committee covers the provision, planning and performance of social and health care in services for older people and vulnerable adults across the borough. It is also responsible for reviewing changes that the NHS and CCG are making to local health services.
The councillors on this committee are:
There is also a non-voting co-optee from Healthwatch – Mrs B Smith.
This scrutiny committee covers the whole range of services relating to the provision of children and young people's services. Reviews such as Physical Activity in Schools, Support for Foster Carers and Children's Food Provision during School Holidays have been undertaken.
Councillors on this committee are:
There are also five co-opted members:
This scrutiny committee considers items relating to borough-wide economic development, the environment, regeneration, housing, culture, tourism, leisure and libraries.
The committee is also designated as the responsible committee for the review and scrutiny of crime and disorder issues, pursuant to the Police and Justice Act 2006.
Furthermore, the committee is designated as the responsible committee for flood risk management, and shall undertake its responsibilities under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.
Councillors on this committee are:
There are also two co-opted members:
In July 2020, both the Environment, Regeneration, Housing, Culture and Leisure & the Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panels were decommissioned and their responsibilities transferred to the new Place Services Scrutiny Committee.
In July 2020, the Audit and Financial Monitoring Overview and Scrutiny Panel was decommissioned, with its responsibilities transferred to other committees. Responsibility for Financial Monitoring Reports passed to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, with responsibility for receiving Internal Audit Reports passing to the Audit and Governance Committee.
Below are the scrutiny reviews that have been completed over the past few years and cabinet's responses to recommendations that have been made.
Overview and Scrutiny Commission
Audit and Financial Monitoring Overview and Scrutiny Panel
Children and Young People's Services Overview and Scrutiny Panel
Environment, Regeneration, Housing Culture and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Panel
Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Panel
Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel
Previous Annual Reports/Newsletters
Each year the Overview and Scrutiny Commission agrees a work programme which sets out the areas of work it is to undertake during the next 12 months. These focus on performance of council services, services provided by our partners and other issues of local concern.
Getting the work programme right is crucial for effective scrutiny and we need to make sure that we choose the right topics - those which will make a demonstrable difference and improve things for the public. We want to make sure that over the next year our work reflects those issues that matter most to people in St Helens Borough.
Scrutiny has a very broad scope for the topics it can address and the approaches it can take to an enquiry: a single issue or decision might be dealt with over one meeting, whereas a review of council policy or a cross-cutting issue that involves external partners might take a number of months to conclude. There is no limit to the nature of an issue that scrutiny panels can choose to investigate.
Carrying out effective scrutiny takes a lot of time, commitment and effort so it is simply not possible to look at every issue. When choosing issues, scrutiny will consider whether it can make a real difference (for example, whether recommendations could result in improved services).
As in previous years, we would like to give you the opportunity to propose areas which you think would benefit from scrutiny having a look at. All your suggestions will be considered when agreeing the final programme.
You can contact the scrutiny team at anytime throughout the year with your suggestions.