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Governance - How council decisions are made

What is Governance?

Governance is how the Council operates and makes decisions. It makes sure that decisions take public opinion into account, reflect and respond to the needs of local people and are transparent and accountable.


View our bite size guide to governance 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 governance structure is a leader and modified cabinet. Full Council elects a Leader who is then re-elected annually.  The Leader chooses 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 Leader and Cabinet take decisions to deliver the business plan and these must be within the budget set by full Council..

View the Governance Model diagram in more detail.

For each Portfolio area, there is a Portfolio Advisory Committee (PAC). They provide support and challenge to the portfolio holders. Each PAC has 10 non executive members and is chaired by a nominated councillor who is not the portfolio holder. These committees enable councillors to participate more widely in policy development and performance management. They also provide an opportunity to have discussions on work undertaken by Councillors through partnerships and other organisations the Council is involved with. Directors and other chief officers may also attend as and when requested.

Members of the PAC can ask questions of the portfolio holder as can members of the public . The PACs provide an opportunity to put issues on the full Council agenda and will act as the hub for the majority of business associated with the specified portfolio responsibilities.

Scrutiny is set up to review and challenge Cabinet and the wider Council and is made up of appointed councillors. There is a Scrutiny Management Committee and a Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee.

The Health and Social Care Scrutiny will be responsible for setting up select committees to do detailed challenge work within the remit of health and social care.

The Management Committee will look at all other work including statutory responsibilities. Detailed work will be carried out by Parliamentary style select committees, which will look at specific areas of work as and when necessary.

Scrutiny can call witnesses, ask detailed questions and will issue its report to the relevant decision maker.  Scrutiny can challenge decisions of Cabinet and individual Cabinet Members by a process known as ‘call in’.  Scrutiny may also respond to specific requests from councillors.

There is a wider pool of members that can be drawn upon to form working groups which review and scrutinise specific areas of work on request.

There are a number of other committees which are required by law. These statutory committees include:

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

Our decision making process, as described above, is new for 2013. It has been implemented as a result of a full review of our governance arrangements. This was undertaken as an opportunity to investigate ways in which non cabinet members could play a greater role in shaping and influencing the policies and decisions of the council. It will also help strengthen the relationship between the portfolio holders on the Cabinet and the wider Council membership. Our former governance arrangements had been in place since becoming a unitary authority in 2009.

General Enquiries

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