Governance - How council decisions are made

2016 Governance Review

Who decides? Governance Review of Cornwall Council

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Cornwall Council makes decisions about a wide range of issues that affect Cornwall, our residents and business owners. The processes for how decisions are made within the Council about the services we provide are an important part of our ‘Governance’.

In 2015 and 2016 the Council reviewed whether the arrangements which were in place were the right ones needed for the future. More information and details of the public events, and how people could get involved in the review, is available on the Who decides? public events page.

The Governance Review page provides some background information on the previous governance arrangements and the alternative arrangements which were considered.

In relation to decision making, governance is about the rules, processes and laws by which the Council is operated, regulated, controlled and held to account. It makes sure that decisions take public opinion into account, reflect and respond to the needs of local people, are evidence-based and are transparent and accountable.

View our bitesize guide to governance relating to decision-making or read on for more detailed information.

We have 123 Councillors representing Cornwall and together they form full Council.

Full Council meets approximately every six weeks. They set the budget for the year as well as the business plan, which sets out the policies and plans the Council wants to achieve. 

Our democratic governance structure is the leader and Cabinet model. Full Council elects a Leader who is then re-elected annually.  The Leader chooses between two and nine councillors to form a Cabinet.  The Cabinet’s responsibilities are divided up into portfolios and each Cabinet Member is responsible for a portfolio of work. The Cabinet Members are also known as Portfolio Holders or Executive Members. The Leader and Cabinet take decisions to deliver the business plan and these must usually be within the budget and policy framework set by full Council.

View the Governance Model diagram in more detail.

Overview and Scrutiny Committees are set up to participate in the policy development and performance management of the Council and to review and challenge the Cabinet and the wider Council and are composed of elected Councillors. There are five Overview and Scrutiny Committees which are largely aligned to the Council’s Directorate and these are as follows:-

  • Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee
  • Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee
  • Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee
  • Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee
  • Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Each Committee has as work programme setting out its work which is regularly reviewed by the committee membership. In addition, each committee may set up Working Groups, Task and Finish Groups, Single Issue Panels, Inquiries and so on in order to undertake detailed challenge work within their respective remits.

The Health and Adult Social Care has statutory responsibilities dictated by Central Government and which focus on a number of areas within its remit. The Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Conmmittee also has such statutory responsibilities which focus on Flood Risk and Crime and Disorder.

Overview and Scrutiny Committees can call witnesses, ask detailed questions and will issue reports to the relevant decision makers.  The Committees can challenge decisions of Cabinet and individual Cabinet Members by a process known as ‘call in’ and may also respond to specific requests from Councillors.

There are a number of other committees to deal with the Council's business which is not dealt with direct by either full Council or the responsibility of Cabinet. These committees include:

  • Licensing
  • Planning
  • Audit
  • Constitution and Governance
  • Standards
  • Appeals
  • Pensions

Our decision making process, as described above, came into being in May 2016 as a result of the detailed Governance Review and replaced those which had been in place since 2013.