Westminster City Council’s award-winning scrutiny team supports the council’s ongoing commitment to quality, transparent and effective governance.
The committees and the commission examine the work of the council and monitor performance. They also contribute to developing policy by conducting research and making recommendations on how services can be improved. In Westminster it is called Policy and Scrutiny, instead of overview and scrutiny.
Scrutiny is vital to promote local accountability as it allows local councillors (non-executives) to hold Cabinet Members (executive) to account.
Importantly, partners that provide services within the city, such as the NHS and CityWest Homes, are also subject to this process. So Westminster's Policy and Scrutiny function is an important tool for councillors to champion the views of residents.
To develop policy and examine specific issues in more depth, committees establish task groups. Findings from these groups are then fed back to committees and conclusions presented to the Cabinet Member or partner for action.
Councils must appoint at least one committee to provide 'overview and scrutiny' of the council. In Westminster these are called 'Policy and Scrutiny' committees.
There are 5 committees:
The Policy and Scrutiny committees also commission task groups and single member studies to work on specific projects of interest to produce research reports with recommendations.
The work programmes for the Policy and Scrutiny committees are typically developed at the start of the municipal year (May) but items can be added at any time if important issues arise. If you live, work or visit Westminster and have a suggestion for a topic you think should be scrutinised, contact the scrutiny team.
Within their terms of reference, the general role of Policy and Scrutiny committees as defined in the Westminster Constitution is to:
Typically, at least one cabinet member must undergo ‘critical friend’ questioning at each committee meeting.
Committees may appoint sub-committees or task groups on either a formal or informal basis, with each responsible for implementing their own work programme. An example of this includes the Health Urgency Committee.
Our frontline councillors are appointed as voting members of committees with political representation of each being proportional to that of the wider council. Anyone who isn't elected members may be appointed to committees, some of whom may be entitled to vote on a decision, reflecting our statutory obligations.
No member may be involved in scrutinising a decision which they have been directly involved in, and committees are not permitted to include members of the executive (the Leader, cabinet members, etc).
Members of the public are welcome to attend Policy and Scrutiny committee meetings.
Meetings are usually held at Westminster City Council, unless otherwise stated on agenda papers.
Task Group meetings are often open to the public, but this is at the discretion of the chairman.