Scrutiny in Bristol

The role of Scrutiny in the Council.

Scrutiny is a process that makes sure that decisions taken by the Council and our partners reflect the opinions, wishes and priorities of the people of Bristol.

Scrutiny Commissions have an important role to play in providing local accountability, openness and involvement in decision-making, aiming to improve results for people in Bristol.

The Scrutiny process connects decision makers to local people and involves the community whenever possible.

Scrutiny is led by Councillors who understand the concerns of the people who elected them.  The role includes:

  • helping the Mayor with policy development
  • reviewing council performance
  • scrutinising the implementation of current policies

Scrutiny acts as a ‘critical friend’, providing support to make sure decisions are carried out correctly and sometimes recommending different or extra courses of action.

Scrutiny Commissions in Bristol 2016 to 2017

We have five Scrutiny Commissions that reflect the Council’s directorates:

The membership of each Scrutiny Commission reflects the Council’s overall political makeup.

Find scrutiny  meeting dates, membership, agendas, reports and minutes.

Find meetings

Scrutiny work programme

Scrutiny Commissions follow a work programme so that you can see what work is planned. Councillors will meet in September to consider the work programme for 2016 onwards.

If you'd like any further information about scrutiny or the work programme please email

Scrutiny methods

Scrutiny members can use different methods to scrutinise a topic. The method will depend on what is being scrutinised and the desired outcome. Examples of Scrutiny methods:

Scrutiny Commission meeting

Features of a Scrutiny Commission meeting:

  • formal meetings that have an agenda, reports and minutes
  • members of the public can attend to hear the debate, submit questions and read out public forum statements at the beginning of the meeting
  • a report or presentation is produced and presented at the meeting by council officers from the relevant departments

Working groups or task and finish groups

Features of a working group or task and finish group:

  • used to look at a specific issue in depth
  • a small group of Councillors meet two to three times to conduct an issue-specific ‘deep dive’.
  • the meeting can take place in public or private
  • the group is focussed and time-limited
  • membership of the Group will be cross-party, nominated by and drawn from the Scrutiny Commission
  • subsequent recommendations would be presented to a formal scrutiny commission meeting for agreement

Inquiry day

Features of an inquiry day:

  • an inquiry day is a focussed, structured one-off event with presentations and group work
  • people attending would include  Councillors, community and partner representatives, other stakeholders and Council Officers to take an overview of a particular issue and provide a forum for questioning invited speakers and witnesses
  • after the inquiry, recommendations are drafted for agreement by the scrutiny commission and sent to the relevant decision maker.


This is an informal meeting of Councillors which could be used for a variety of purposes such as to develop a collective view and decide a way forward, or to agree questions.

Policy advisors

Policy Advisors:

  • support the scrutiny function and the Chair and members of each Scrutiny Commission.
  • carry out  research, analysis and policy work
  • ensure and/or facilitate delivery of scrutiny objectives in line with the agreed work programmes.
  • build networks and effective working relationships with members, officers and other external stakeholders so that they can find out about and share relevant knowledge and information

Reviewing Scrutiny decisions

Decisions which have been made but haven't yet been implemented can be “called-in” by any two councillors.


When this happens the decision is reviewed by a call-in committee of councillors who may decide to:

The call-in committee can’t overturn a decision made by Cabinet.

Major decisions taken by the Mayor or the cabinet don't normally come into effect until there's been a standard period of about a week for other councillors to consider whether to ‘call it in’ for detailed review.