Tower Hamlets Overview and Scrutiny Transparency Commission(OSTC)

Tower Hamlets Overview and Scrutiny Committee is responsible for scrutinising decisions under the council’s constitution. The committee also considers ways to improve services and develop policy. It meets on a monthly basis.

In 2015, the Chair of the committee, Cllr John Pierce, established an Overview and Scrutiny Transparency Commission (OSTC). The Commission aimed to identify actions the council should take to improve transparency.

Transparency in local authorities has been a central government priority, with all councils encouraged to provide more information on how they are spending public money, and about the decisions they make. Transparency was also a key theme of the 2015 mayoral election in Tower Hamlets.

Aims of OSTC

The Overview and Scrutiny Transparency Commission aimed to find ways the council can be more transparent. Questions the Commission considered include:

  • How can residents be better informed about council activity, processes and decisions?
  • How can elected members be supported to make more transparent decisions?
  • How can decision-makers be held to account transparently?

How the Commission worked

The Commission began its work at the 27 July OSC meeting, discussing the aims of the OSTC and its scope, as well as taking evidence from officers on how the council currently discharges its duties under the Local Government Transparency Code and the Freedom of Information Act. Members also heard about decision-making for planning and licensing applications, including how local people are consulted on these. Additionally, a local journalist and a local blogger gave their views on the council’s degree of openness.

The Commission’s scope was formally agreed at its 7 September meeting, when it also heard the Mayor’s views and plans in relation to making decision-making more transparent.

At the same meeting, the Commission learned about the council’s work in relation to engaging local people, both in democratic processes and in communication with the council. It also considered the protections in place for whistleblowers, and the mechanisms by which contributions from developers are allocated to improve infrastructure in the borough. Finally, the Commission heard the views of external participants, including another local journalist and the Centre for Public Scrutiny, on the release of information.

On 5 October, the Commission considered the results of its recent public consultation on views of the council’s transparency. It also heard from Redbridge Council and Socrata about the experiences of other authorities and government bodies in making more data open to the public on dedicated platforms; and received a presentation from UNISON. Finally, it noted written papers from Cllr Peter Golds on the role of members in participatory budgeting, and from Unite.

The Commission  agreed its final report, containing its findings and 18 recommendations, at the 30 November Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. On January 29 2016, Cllr Pierce presented the report to the Mayor for implementation.

The final Transparency Commission report is available to download.

If you have any questions about the Transparency Commission, please contact