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Scrutiny Protocols

The Council has agreed protocols for the operation of the scrutiny function in Tameside

Scrutiny Panel's - Work Programme - Protocol 1

  1. Once Scrutiny Panels have concluded the review of their work programme based on the appropriate part of the agreed Forward Plan and key decisions, they will determine their individual work programmes for the forthcoming Municipal Year. These will be recommended to Council for approval.
  2. In determining their work programmes for the forthcoming year, Panels will, for their areas of responsibility, take into consideration, the overall effect of the strategic plans of the Council, including:
    1. The Community Strategy
    2. The Corporate Plan.
    3. The Council's Annual Budget.
    4. Forward Plan
  3. Scrutiny Panels will determine the subjects for inclusion in their work programmes for presenting improvements to service provision which will be presented through political and council channels.
  4. Subjects for scrutiny, may be raised with a Scrutiny Panel by the Executive, District Assemblies, a member of the public or organisation and by a Member of the Council.
  5. The Council also operates a procedure for the call in of executive decisions which are contrary to the policy framework or contrary or not wholly in accordance with the Council's budget. (See also scrutiny protocol 5 - extract of the Council Constitution)

Scrutiny - People Attending a Panel Meeting to Provide Information - Protocol 2

  1. Scrutiny Panels may request information from, and the attendance of, Members of the Cabinet, other Members of the Council, and Officers of the Council.
  2. Scrutiny Panels may request information from and attendance of persons or organisations not connected with Tameside MBC, or the local health trusts, but their attendance is at their discretion.
  3. Persons attending a meeting of a Scrutiny Panel in order to give written or oral information, will receive an outline of the purpose of the scrutiny investigation and an outline of the key questions. Notice will be given when specific information is being sought.
  4. Members of Scrutiny Panels will have the opportunity to ask supplementary questions.
  5. Written information that is to be presented to a Scrutiny Panel should:-
    1. be submitted to the Scrutiny Support and Co-ordination Officer at least ten working days before the meeting of the Panel at which it will be considered;
    2. identify the author, their service unit or organisation, identify the subject under consideration and include a clearly defined summary and recommendations if appropriate;
    3. indicate whether the written information contains exempt information.
  6. Written information may be supplemented orally.
    It should be noted that any written information will be made available to the press and public, unless it contains exempt information as defined by the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985. It is the responsibility of the provider of the written information to indicate whether the document contains exempt information.
  7. Persons attending a Scrutiny Panel to provide information, should clearly identify themselves and the service unit or organisation that they are representing. They should inform the Scrutiny Support and Co-ordination Officer in advance of any requirements to assist with their presentation.
  8. If persons attending the Panel are unable to answer a question, they will be invited to provide it in writing or if necessary attend another meeting of the Panel.

Scrutiny Reporting Process - Protocol 3

  1. Once the Scrutiny Panel has completed obtaining information as part of a scrutiny exercise and has agreed its conclusions, its report will generally be drafted by the Scrutiny Support and Co-ordination Officer supporting the Panel.
  2. The report will contain details of verified information received by the Panel from the people providing information, whether written or oral and information received separately by the Panel through its support officers and advisers.
  3. When the report is drafted it will be sent to the Head of Scrutiny and the Head(s) of the Service(s) mainly affected by the scrutiny exercise. This will provide an opportunity for the checking of specific information provided to the Panel. Ten working days will be allocated for the receipt of any comments on the draft report.
  4. Any factual inaccuracies in the report will be addressed at this stage.
  5. The Draft report will then be sent to the Chair and Members of the Scrutiny Panel for any necessary amendments. Minority reports will not be produced, although alternative views may be recorded in a report with the agreement of the majority of the members of the Panel.
  6. The final report will be submitted to the next meeting of the Scrutiny Panel for formal approval and adoption. Once approved the final report is sent to the Borough Treasurer (the Principal Accountant for the Service under Review).  It will then be sent with the Borough Treasurer's comments to the Borough Solicitor to provide her comments.  Ten working days will be allocated for the provision of each of these comments.  The report is then sent formally to the Leader of the Council and the Leaders of the political groups on the Council, allowing adequate time for consideration and comment.
  7. Once the Leaders of the political groups have given consideration to a Panel's report in accordance with paragraph 6 above, that report will be circulated to all Members of the Council. The Chair of the Panel will present the report to the Council where the appropriate Executive Member will respond. The report may then be debated at the Council Meeting.
  8. In the event of an issue arising between a Executive Member and a Scrutiny Panel relating to a Panel's report, which requires adjudication or resolution, then that report will be referred to the Monitoring Officer who may at her discretion refer the matter to the Speakers Panel.
  9. The Scrutiny Support Unit will send electronically, the recommendations in the Scrutiny Report to the appropriate Member(s) of the Executive Cabinet who, will provide a response to the recommendations within fifteen working days, in the same format.  This will then be reported to the Scrutiny Panel.  (As approved by the Joint Overview Panel - 16/12/02, minute 25 refers). 

Scrutiny Panels - Call in of Decisions Outside the Budget and Policy Framework - Protocol 4 (Extract from the Council Constitution)

1. Budget and Policy Framework

  1. The Council will be responsible for the adoption of its budget and policy framework as set out in Article 4 of the Council's constitution.
  2. Once a budget or a policy framework is in place, it will be the responsibility of the Cabinet to implement it.
  3. The Executive will publicise by including in the Council's Forward Plan a timetable for making proposals to the Council for the adoption of any plan, strategy or budget that forms part of the budget and policy framework, and its arrangements for consultation after publication of such initial proposals.
  4. The Chairs of the Scrutiny Panels will be notified of such proposals referred to in Paragraph 1.3 above.
  5. The consultation period shall in each instance be not less than 2 weeks and the appropriate Scrutiny Panel(s) must be consulted on such proposals.
  6. At the end of the consultation period, the Executive will draw up firm proposals, having regard to the responses to that consultation.
  7. If a relevant Scrutiny Panel wishes to respond to the Executive in that consultation process then it may do so.
  8. As the Scrutiny Panels have responsibility for setting their own work programme, it is open to the Scrutiny Panels to investigate, research and report in detail with policy recommendations before the end of the consultation period.
  9. The Executive will take any response from a Scrutiny Panel into account in drawing up firm proposals for submission to the Council, and its report to Council will reflect the comments made by consultees and the Executive's response.
  10. Once the Executive has approved the firm proposal the proper officer will refer them at the earliest opportunity to the Council for decision.
  11. In reaching a decision, the Council may adopt the Executive's proposals, amend them, refer them back to the Executive for further consideration, or in principle, substitute its own proposals in their place.
  12. If it accepts the recommendation of the Executive without amendment, the Council may make a decision which has immediate effect. Otherwise, it may only make an in principle decision. In either case, the decision will be made on the basis of a simple majority of votes cast at the meeting.
  13. The decision will be publicised in accordance with Article 4 of the Council's Constitution and a copy shall be given to the Executive Leader.
  14. An in principle decision will automatically become effective 5 days from the date of the Council decision, unless the Executive Leader informs the proper officer in writing within 3 days that he/she objects to the decision becoming effective and provides reasons why.
  15. In the event of the Executive Leader objecting to an "in principle" decision, in accordance with Standing Order 33.14, then the proper officer will call a Council Meeting within a further 5 days, when the Council will be required to reconsider its decision and the Executive Leader's written submission within 5 days.
  16. A Council Meeting convened under Paragraph 1.15 may either:
    1. approve the Executive's recommendation by a simple majority of votes cast at the meeting, or
    2. approve a different decision which does not accord with the recommendation of the Executive by a simple majority.
  17. The decision shall then be made public in accordance with Article 4 of the Council's Constitution, and shall be implemented immediately.
  18. The Cabinet, an individual Executive Member or Officers, District Assemblies or joint arrangements discharging executive functions may take a decision which is contrary to the Council's policy framework or contrary to or not wholly in accordance with the budget approved by full council if the decision is a matter or urgency. However, the decision may only be taken:
    1. if it is not practical to convene a quorate meeting of the full Council; and
    2. if the Chair of a relevant Scrutiny Panel agrees that the decision is a matter of urgency.
  19. The reasons why it is not practical to convene a quorate meeting of full Council and the Chair of the relevant Scrutiny Panel's consent to the decision being taken as a matter of urgency must be noted on the record of the decision.
  20. In the absence of the relevant Scrutiny Panel Chair the consent of the Chair of Council Business will be sufficient.
  21. Following the decision, the decision taker will provide a full report to the next available Council meeting explaining the decision, the reasons for it and why the decision was treated as a matter or urgency.

2. Call in of Decisions Outside the Budget or Policy Framework

  1. Where a Scrutiny Panel is of the opinion that an Executive decision is, or if made would be (a) contrary to the policy framework, or (b) contrary to or not wholly in accordance with the Council's budget, then it shall seek advice from the Monitoring Officer and/or Chief Financial Officer.
  2. In respect of functions which are the responsibility of the Executive, the Monitoring Officer's report and/or Chief Financial Officer's report shall be to the Executive with a copy to every Member of the Council. Regardless of whether the decision is delegated or not, the Executive must meet to decide what action to take in respect of the Monitoring Officer's report.
  3. In the event that the Monitoring Officer or the Chief Finance Officer conclude that the decision was a departure they shall prepare a report, in the first instance for the Call In Panel (which shall meet within 5 days of the meeting of the Executive)
  4. Where the Monitoring Officer or the Chief Finance Officer conclude that the decision was not a departure then the Scrutiny Panel shall be informed of that outcome and the decision shall be implemented.
  5. If the decision has yet to be made, or has been made but not yet implemented, and the advice from the Monitoring Officer and/or the Chief Financial Officer is that the decision is or would be contrary to the policy framework or contrary to or not wholly in accordance with the budget, Scrutiny Panels may refer the matter in the first instance to the Call In Panel.
  6. In such cases, where the matter has been referred to the Call In Panel, no further action will be taken in respect of the decision or its implementation until the Panel has met and considered the matter. The Panel shall meet within 5 days of the request by the Scrutiny Panel.
  7. At the meeting it will receive a report of the decision or proposals and the advice of the Monitoring Officer and/or the Chief Financial Officer. The Panel may either:
    1. endorse a decision or proposal of the Executive decision taken as falling within the existing budget and policy framework. In this case no further action is required, save that the decision of the Panel be minuted and circulated to all Councillors in the normal way; or
    2. recommend to full Council that the Council's Financial Regulations or policy concerned to encompass the decision or proposal of the body or individual responsible for that executive function be amended and for full Council to the decision with immediate effect. In this case, no further action is required save that the decision of the Council be minuted and circulated to all councillors in the normal way; or
    3. where the Panel accepts that the decision or proposal is contrary to the policy framework or contrary to or not wholly in accordance with the budget, and does not amend the existing framework to accommodate it, require the Executive to reconsider the matter in accordance with the advice of either the Monitoring Officer, or Chief Financial Officer.

Standards for Service Delivery - Protocol 5

  1. The Scrutiny Support Unit supports, facilitates and enables the members of Tameside's Scrutiny Panels to undertake the requirements of Section 21 of the Local Government Act 2000 and Section 7 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001.
  2. In preparation for, and during the course of a Scrutiny Panel review, the Scrutiny Unit will ensure that Panel members are fully briefed and informed to enable them to carry out their role. This will be achieved by providing the following:- 
  1. Work Programmes for Scrutiny Panels will be approved by Panel members.
    The Scrutiny Support Unit will support and assist members of Scrutiny Panels to identify items for inclusion on the work programmes for the Panels following extensive consultation. Items will be drawn from the Residents' Opinion Survey, Performance Indicators, Policy Reviews, suggestions from the public, etc.
  2. Chairs and Deputies will be fully briefed and consulted on the agendas for Scrutiny Panel meetings.
    Chair's briefings will take place on a day and at a time to suit the respective Chair and Deputy Chair.
  3. Agendas and briefing papers will be sent to Scrutiny Panel members at least five working days prior to the Panel meeting.
    Agendas, minutes, consultation material and briefings will wherever possible, be sent to Panel members within five working days of the Scrutiny panel meeting.
  4. Agendas and Minutes of Scrutiny Panel meetings will be placed on the Scrutiny web site.
    Agendas with accompanying public documents such as minutes of the previous meeting will be placed on the scrutiny web site three working days before the meeting of the respective Scrutiny Panel.
  5. The Scrutiny Support and Co-ordination Officer will prepare a brief for Panel members which will be sent to them five days in advance of the Panel meeting. The brief will explain the background of the subject to be dealt with at the meeting and any other relevant information.
    All briefing papers and presentations will be free from jargon and acronyms and will be presented in as interesting and informative format as possible.
  6. The Scrutiny Support and Co-ordination Officer will give an oral presentation of approximately 45 minutes duration immediately prior to the Scrutiny Panel meeting.
    The presentation will be interesting and informative and contain the very latest information for members of Scrutiny Panels, including issues to be especially considered.
  7. The Scrutiny Support Unit will assist the Scrutiny Panels in identifying the "scope" of scrutiny reviews.
    "Scoping" sessions will take place at Scrutiny Panel meetings according to the template and in the format agreed by Scrutiny Panels.
    The Scrutiny Support and Co-ordination Officer will provide background information in the form of briefing papers and oral presentation to assist members of Scrutiny Panels in the "scoping" exercise.
  8. The Scrutiny Support Unit will carry out the research identified and agreed by the Scrutiny Panels.
    As often as possible Scrutiny Panel members will carry out some aspects of this research, including site visits, consultation and informal meetings.
    The Scrutiny Support Unit will link research and consultation to efficiency and value for money.
  9. Scrutiny Panel reports will be initially drafted by the Scrutiny Support Unit based on the information received during the course of the review. The draft report will not contain conclusions or recommendations, which will be agreed for inclusion in the report by the members of the Scrutiny Panel.
    Scrutiny Panel members will receive draft reports at least five working days prior to panel meetings, at which the conclusions and recommendations are identified and approved.
    Scrutiny Panel members will receive the final version of reports for approval.