Overview of the scrutiny function
Oxfordshire County Council is committed to providing excellent services to the local community. An effective scrutiny function helps to improve service provision and to inform policy. The statutory scrutiny function involves non-Cabinet Members in Oxfordshire (taken to include all the councillors and the co-opted members of scrutiny committees), examining the county council's functions and performance, challenging the plans and decisions of the Cabinet and exploring the effectiveness of other public bodies in the locality. They question how key decisions have been made and take up issues of concern to the community.
The scrutiny function aims to make recommendations to influence the future development of policy. Scrutiny does not re-run debates already held in full council or in the Cabinet. Instead, scrutiny committees take a strategic perspective and aim to focus in particular, on issues and outcomes of importance to the community, to ensure that local services improve and that value for money is achieved at Oxfordshire County Council.
Scrutiny can exercise influence by:
- Holding decision makers to account
- Challenging and improving performance
- Supporting the achievement of value for money
- Challenging the way things are done
- evidence-based recommendations to decision makers
- Bringing in the views and evidence of local people, service users and citizens
- Encouraging joined-up thinking across directorate and service barriers.
Overall, scrutiny aims to achieve greater public accountability, to ensure that decision-making is transparent, and to help the authority and other agencies/ public bodies in the area to deliver services that are sensitive to local needs.
More information about the aims and roles of scrutiny can be found on the website in the Scrutiny Procedure Rules of the county council's Constitution.
There are three scrutiny committees:
You can find out about the work of each committee and read their meetings' papers through the meetings section of the website.
You can find out more about the achievements of the scrutiny function at Oxfordshire County Council by reading the Scrutiny Annual Report 2017/18 (pdf format, 599Kb).
In addition to these permanent scrutiny committees there will be other committees that are responsible for different types of activity. They include:
Cabinet Advisory Groups
These groups will primarily examine topics selected by Cabinet which align to corporate council priorities. This will enable back bench members to be more closely involved with issues of greatest importance to the council. Find out more about Cabinet Advisory Groups.
Health overview and scrutiny
The Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OJHOSC) looks at the health services provided by the NHS and other providers in the county.
The work of the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee differs from the other scrutiny committees in that instead of looking at the council's own services, it is focused outwards towards services provided by other agencies, primarily the NHS. However, health scrutiny is not only about the NHS: it is about health improvement, rather than ill health, and the committee looks at all the things that have an impact upon it. The committee consults widely with external bodies such as Healthwatch, the voluntary sector, and partners from the NHS, so that it can gain a good picture of what matters to the community.
Some of the issues the committee can look at are:
- any matter relating to the planning, provision and operation of health services
- services provided, commissioned or managed by the NHS
- whether local health services are working well
- other health matters such as the availability of sports and leisure facilities, or people's access to fresh foods
The NHS is obliged to consult the OJHOSC on any substantial changes it wants to make to local health services. It also has a wider responsibility to involve and consult the public.
The committee meets up to six times a year or more. It reacts to what is happening in the NHS both locally and nationally and develops a work programme, which lists the issues it plans to investigate. Once an investigation is completed the committee presents its advice to the relevant bodies in the form of a report.
Meeting agendas and minutes
Meetings are open to the public and you can read agendas and documents for the OJHOSC to find out more about what the committee does.
The OJHOSC is a 'joint' committee with members from the county council and the county's five districts. There are also places for co-opted members to bring a community perspective.
Often people who use health and social care services don't feel they have enough say in how these are run or improved. Local involvement networks have been established nationally to listen to people's experiences and provide new ways for people to have an influence. These replace the former patient and public involvement forums.
Find out more information by visiting Healthwatch Oxfordshire
Police and Crime Panel
The Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel was created to scrutinise the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner. It has one councillor from each of the 18 local authorities in the Thames Valley area and two co-opted members. The panel is co-ordinated by South Bucks District Council.