Overview and Scrutiny

Overview and Scrutiny is a function of local authorities in England and Wales. It was introduced by the Local Government Act 2000 which created separate Executive and Overview and Scrutiny functions within councils.[1]

Councils operating executive arrangements are required to create an Overview and Scrutiny Committee which is composed of councillors who are not on the Executive Committee, or Cabinet, of that council. Overview and Scrutiny Committees are required to meet the rules on proportionality defined in the Local Government And Housing Act 1989 (i.e. the committee must reflect the respective sizes of the political groups on the council). Councils in England which use the committee system are not required to establish an overview and scrutiny committee, but may do so if they wish.[1]

There is no national standard or prescription on the committee structure that councils adopt to satisfy these legislative requirements. A wide variety of designations and structures are in use, ranging from single committees to multiple committees with sub-committees. Structures have no significant impact on the overall effectiveness of the scrutiny function in individual authorities.[2]

The law relating to overview and scrutiny is slightly different in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, councils all operate under the committee system, although some incorporate policy development groups which perform similar functions to overview and scrutiny committees.[3]