Transparent democracy – holding people to account

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Residents can now tell Epping Forest District Council what subjects they want councillors to examine.

Healthy Democracy

Most business people will tell you that the best decisions are made by small groups or individuals. The same is true at Epping Forest District Council where a small group of councillors called the Cabinet take most of the decisions. However, unlike business, councils have to be open, inclusive and accountable to everyone who lives and works in the area. Healthy democracy requires a means of holding that small group of councillors to account to the rest of the Council and everyone who lives and works in the district. That is the job of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

How is O&S made up?

O&S is one of the most dynamic and important Council committees. Made up of councillors drawn from all the political groups on the Council, its job goes beyond holding the Cabinet to account. O&S also has the power to call any public sector organisation or public utility including the health, education, social care and the police for public examination. O&S meetings of Epping Forest District Council have looked critically at hospital services, cuts to the police and the provision of Broadband across the district.

You can nominate subjects for discussion

Until recently it was up to councillors to decide what issues O&S investigated. Now the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Richard Morgan is asking local people to nominate subjects or organisations for closer examination. He said: “O&S uses the spotlight of publicity to make its case. It can’t alter a Cabinet decision or make the health services reduce waiting times at A&E. That is for others to do, but the attention it can bring to a problem or debate is a powerful tool for change”.

Councillor Richard Morgan continued: “Quite a lot of our work is generated by councillors either unhappy with a decision of the Cabinet or concerned about an area of policy we think should be examined and possibly changed. We also spend quite a bit of time challenging the assumptions and decisions of other organisations. Bringing an organisation such as the Probation Service or London Underground in to explain themselves can focus the mind remarkably well. All our meetings are open to the public and webcast so you can see exactly what people are saying. Now you can tell us where you think we should be looking.”

How do I submit my topic for discussion?

O&S doesn’t cover planning or licensing applications but most other areas are open to review. If you want Epping Forest District Council to investigate a public service or issue relevant to the district contact

Next meeting

There will be a new work programme from June 2014, the overview and scrutiny committee will consider requests at their next meeting. To view the current work programme  for the latest overview and scrutiny committee agenda document pack and a look for work programme monitoring towards the end of the agenda.