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About overview and scrutiny

Find out how overview and scrutiny works and why it is important

What overview and scrutiny is and why it is important

Working in a similar way to parliamentary select committees, overview and scrutiny enables your councillors to hold the council’s executive (the mayor and cabinet) and other local organisations – like health services and the Police – to account for their decisions, actions and performance. 

Overview and scrutiny is independent of the council’s executive. It provides a ‘check and balance’ to the council’s leadership and partners by asking constructive but challenging questions of decision-makers.

Overview and scrutiny sometimes invites experts – such as academics or charities – and members of the community to provide a different, external perspective on issues. 

After considering a topic, overview and scrutiny can make recommendations for improvement to the executive or the council’s partners.

By providing independent, constructive challenge and making evidence-based recommendations, overview and scrutiny can drive the improvement of local services for the benefit of residents. 

What overview and scrutiny does

Overview and scrutiny is important because it allows democratically elected councillors to independently:

  • assess the performance and delivery of services from the perspective of service users
  • hold people to account for their decisions
  • influence policy formulation and implementation
  • investigate issues of local concern and make recommendations for improvement.

Overview and scrutiny tries to address areas where:

  • the council and its partners could improve
  • there is concern in the community
  • significant changes are being made.

Our overview and scrutiny principles include:

  • providing a ‘critical friend’ challenge to the executive and external authorities providing public services
  • reflecting the voices and concerns of the people and communities
  • having an impact on the delivery of local public services.

What overview and scrutiny can't do

The overview and scrutiny select committees cannot examine all aspects of service provision in depth. They also do not deal with:

  • individual queries, concerns, complaints

  • matters that are dealt with by our quasi-judicial committees, such as licensing and planning.

If you are not satisfied with the service you have received from the council, you can use our complaints procedure.

Task and Finish Groups 

Lewisham’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee can establish time limited Task and Finish Groups (TFGs) to look at topical issues of importance or concern. Each group is established for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months and is made up of five councillors. The TFG collects evidence to help it clearly define what the problem is. It then collects evidence to help it come up with potential solutions and produces a final report with recommendations for action.

We want our Task and Finish Groups to be:

  • Focussed on residents – Ensure that the issue is clearly defined, and solutions suggested, on the basis of understanding residents’ needs.
  • Focussed on solutions – Take evidence from a wide range of sources and good practice to develop affordable, practical solutions that are evidence based and implementable and that will have a positive impact on the lives of residents.

How overview and scrutiny plans its work

Each committee agrees an annual work programme outlining the issues it will look into over the following 12 month period. This diagram shows the different overview and scrutiny committees.

Image shows the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with arrows into its six thematic subcommittees - the Public Accounts Select Committee, the Healthier Communities Select Committee, the Sustainable Development Select Committee, the Children and Young People Select Committee, the Housing Select Committee and the Safer Stronger Communities Select Committee - and into a box titled Task and finish groups

Get involved

Scrutiny needs the help of local people and organisations to make sure the Council and its partners deliver good and effective services. Get involved in overview and scrutiny by:


Overview and Scrutiny

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