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Other powers to influence decision making
Overview and scrutiny has other powers that councillors can use to influence decision-making locally – call-ins, councillor call for action and calling to account.
A call-in is a tool to temporarily freeze a decision that has been taken by the cabinet but not yet implemented, to allow for further consideration. To do this, five councillors have to sign a request that a decision be called in, if they believe it does not meet the council’s ‘Principles of decision-making’ as set out in Article 13 of the constitution (page 79). The scrutiny commission to whom the topic is most relevant then holds a special hearing to decide whether the decision should be referred back to cabinet, discussed further at full council, or upheld.
Example of call-in
- housing management (March 2010): 5 councillors requested that the decision to bring neighbourhood contracts relating to housing management services back in-house was called in. Following discussion with the councillors, stakeholders and with the relevant cabinet member, the overview and scrutiny board decided to take no action (and let the decision be taken)
Councillor call for action (CCfA)
CCfA enables any member to ask scrutiny to investigate an issue affecting their ward, particularly issues that remain unresolved despite all efforts to get them fixed. Scrutiny can then choose to take-up the issue, investigate it thoroughly, and make recommendations to the relevant decision-makers. The idea of this power is to provide:
- recognition that an issue is significant enough for time, attention and resource to be allocated in an attempt to resolve it
- a forum for discussion of the issue
- an opportunity to discuss the issue in a neutral forum
- an opportunity to discuss the issue with others with the sole aim of resolving it
Calling to account
The Council’s constitution includes powers in relation to residents running petitions. These include opportunities for groups of local people to trigger debates at full council, or to hold an officer to account. A petition to hold an officer to account would trigger an open meeting at the relevant scrutiny commission at which a named senior officer would be called to answer questions about the subject of the petition. 500 signatures are needed for an officer to questioned by councillors as part of overview and scrutiny.
Committee members would ask the questions at this meeting, but petitioners could suggest questions to the chair by contacting them or scrutiny to 3 working days before the meeting.
Find out more about the Council’s petition scheme and how scrutiny fits in.