Overview and scrutiny


Scrutiny is a way for your councillors and co-opted members of the community to check how decisions are made by your Mayor, Cabinet and the council. The overview and scrutiny function is essential. It plays an important role in the council’s governance and decision-making processes. Scrutiny ensures that

  • decisions made by the Executive Mayor, Cabinet and its partners are in the best interests of the residents
  • the council provides a quality service.

Overview and Scrutiny Committee review key decisions. They do this by asking pre-decision scrutiny questions and making recommendations to improve strategies and policies, service delivery and performance of these.

The overview and scrutiny function supports non-executive Members and Co-opted Members to:

  • examine the services provided by the council and its partners to the wider community
  • question on how decisions are made or reached
  • collaborate with others, be challenging but constructive in proposing improvements
  • encourage external and public involvement to support robust discussions.

If you want to learn more about scrutiny, please check the Overview and Scrutiny toolkit.

It covers the:

  • Overview and Scrutiny function and governance arrangements
  • the key roles and responsibilities for those involved in scrutiny
  • useful scrutiny tools to ensure best practice. 

There is a duty for all English and Welsh councils to provide a scrutiny function under Local Government Act (2000) and Localism Act (2011) where there is an elected Executive Mayor and Cabinet Structure. Whilst scrutiny is not a decision-making body, it does have the authority to act as a ‘critical friend’ and provide a robust checks and balance function.

In 2019, the UK Government published and set out statutory guidance for overview and scrutiny function due to its importance to the successful functioning of local democracy.

To fulfil and support its role, councillors and co-optees on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee can and will:

  • Hold the executive to account through scrutinising the council’s performance and key decisions affecting residents and the wider community
  • Monitor Cabinet decisions to ensure they are robust and good value for money, particularly through budget scrutiny
  • Work together as an independent group to raise issues, pre-decision scrutiny questions and consider decisions that are call-ins
  • Request elected Mayor and Cabinet Member to attend the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and explain their decisions, council plans and performance
  • Request the executive to submit a report to Full Council if it feels that a key decision has been taken without being published in advance.

The scrutiny function is made up of a committee structure known as the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC)

The OSC can set up more sub-committees and look at specific issues. Sub-committees in Tower Hamlets include:

Scrutiny Lead members also examine portfolio areas in:

  • Resources and Finance
  • Environment and Community Safety

The OSC can recall the Mayor, Cabinet or senior officers at the council and/or partner agencies to attend the committee meeting to explain

  • decisions that they made
  • how well a local public service is doing for which they are responsible for
  • how much of a decision made reflects the council’s budget and policy structure.


Overview and Scrutiny annual video report 2022-2023

The Overview and Scrutiny Annual video report provides an insight into how Overview and Scrutiny functions to amplify the voices of residents and explore the key issues that are affecting communities, like the cost-of-living crisis.

The video explains how residents can get involved in processes of scrutiny.

Overview and Scrutiny meetings

The work programme can be subject to change. Browse the councils meetings calendar for the latest information. Live or recorded scrutiny sessions are streamed on the webcast site.

Suggest an issue for Scrutiny to look into


If you want to suggest a topic for the scrutiny committee to investigate, please complete the online form or contact us by post.

  • Post:
    London Borough of Tower Hamlets
    Corporate Strategy and Communities Team
    Strategy Improvement and Transformation Division
    Chief Executive’s Office 
    Tower Hamlets Town Hall
    E1 1BJ
  • Email: Scrutiny2@towerhamlets.gov.uk


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  • Stay informed
    If you wish to be kept informed about Overview and Scrutiny activity, please provide your contact details.

Privacy notice

To find out how we use your data please read our privacy notice.


Data controller and purpose

The information you provide will be used by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Corporate Strategy and Policy Service, to process your suggestions for Overview and Scrutiny to review.

We have received your personal data from you and will use this for informing the scrutiny work programme.

We process your data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and if you have any concerns the council’s data protection officer can be contacted on DPO@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

Condition for processing personal data

It is necessary for us to process your personal data (name, address, contact details), under the GDPR with consent. A delay in you providing the information requested may result in a delay in providing appropriate services.

How long do we keep your information?

We will only hold your information for as long as is required by law and to provide you with the necessary services. This is likely to be for 12 months after the case is closed. For further details, you can view our retention schedule.

We may also anonymise some personal data you provide to us to ensure that you cannot be identified and use this for statistical analysis of data to allow the Council to effectively target and plan the provision of services.

Information sharing

The council has a duty to protect public funds and may use personal information and data-matching techniques to detect and prevent fraud, and ensure public money is targeted and spent in the most appropriate and cost-effective way. Information may be shared with internal services and external bodies like the Audit Commission, Department for Work and Pensions, other local authorities, HM Revenue and Customs, and the Police. This activity is carried out under social protection law.

We have a duty to improve the health of the population we serve. To help with this, we use data and information from a range of sources including hospitals to understand more about the nature and causes of disease and ill-health in the area. This data would normally be anonymised and never used to make decisions on a specific individual or family.

Your rights

You can find out more about your rights on our data protection page and this includes details of your rights about automated decisions, such as the ranking of housing applications, and how to complain to the Information Commissioner.