We are the scrutiny team at Devon County Council: Camilla de Bernhardt, Janine Gassmann and Dan Looker.
Many people, ourselves included, are not inspired by the term “scrutiny” but it actually stands for a very interesting activity in local government – looking at how services are run, and trying to improve them. We get involved in almost everything which affects the life of the people in Devon ranging from school transport, education, dementia care, NHS services to road maintenance and flood prevention, you name it. Sometimes, people can find the term scrutiny intimidating but we’re a friendly bunch trying to make Devon a better place to live.
So scrutiny is a really vital part of the democratic process. It is modelled on Parliament with its Government (Cabinet) and select committees. Put simply, the Prime Minister and his colleagues make decisions which are in turn checked by all those MPs who do not sit on the Cabinet, but on select committees. In local government, we call these select committees “scrutiny committees” but the principle is the same.
In Devon, only 8 out of the 62 county councillors sit on the Cabinet and the majority of the remaining councillors, or members, serve on scrutiny committees covering the four broad areas people, place, health and wellbeing as well as corporate services.
Each committee meets regularly in public to look at issues or problems in detail. If an area requires further investigation, committees will set up a small task group of councillors. Task groups work very informally and collect the views of many people who are interested in or affected by an issue, and they recommend measures to improve whatever needs improving. All scrutiny recommendations go to either the full Council (which decides policy) or the Cabinet (making decisions which put those policies into effect).
Dan supports the People’s Scrutiny Committee.
Janine takes care of the Place Scrutiny Committee.
Camilla looks after the Health and Wellbeing as well as the Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee.
You can get involved too – we would love to hear from you if you have a topic for us to look at or if you want to give us your views on an area we’re currently investigating. Simply give Camilla, Dan or Janine a call on 01392 384383, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our webpages.