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Decision making on Cornwall Council

Much of the decision making on Cornwall Council, as with any council, is concerned with ensuring that the normal day-to-day processes of running a large public sector body continue to function. The officers are delegated with authority to take many decisions up to specified limits such as financial impact. Decisions not within the authority of the officers are made by the elected members in a number of ways.

Full council: there is a meeting of the full council about 10 times a year. Only a few decisions are reserved for the full council, e.g. setting the annual budget, constitutional matters and some others.

Cabinet: the Cabinet is the body that makes most of the key decisions taken by the Council. The Cabinet formally meets once a month. Individual Cabinet members have authority to make decisions on certain day-to-day matters without having to seek approval from the full Cabinet.

Planning and licensing committees: minor planning applications are often determined by planning officers. However, major planning applications and more controversial minor applications are decided by planning committees comprising elected members. There are 3 regional planning committees (west, central, east) and a strategic planning committee that determines applications that have significance for the whole county. Licensing committees deal with issues such as alcohol licence applications, taxis etc.

Overview and Scrutiny committees: the system for scrutinising decisions made by the Council has changed twice since the formation of the unitary authority in 2009. Initially, there were 5 overview and scrutiny committees. Then, in the 2013-17 Council, these were replaced by 10 portfolio advisory committees - essentially, each Cabinet member was aligned with one portfolio advisory committee. In the 2017 Council, the system has reverted to that in the first Council with 5 overview and scrutiny committees. They are:

  • Children and Families
  • Customer and Support services
  • Economic growth and development
  • Health and Adult Social Care
  • Neighbourhoods

Each of these committees has a role in scrutinising the policies and decisions made by the executive. They look at issues before the final decisions are made and also can call in some decisions after they have been made. For a guide to how scrutiny should operate, see Scrutiny training guide.

Other committees: there are other committees such as the Constitution and Governance Committee, the Farms Panel, Standards Committee etc.

All meetings of the above committees are public meetings, although sometimes, some items are discussed with the press and public excluded where confidential information is being discussed. Agendas are published on the Council website at least 7 days in advance of meetings. At full council, Cabinet and scrutiny committee meetings, there is an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions. Questions have to be submitted in writing prior to the meeting and time limits apply to this part of the agenda. At planning meetings, members of the public may be allowed to speak if they register in advance and say what their interest is in the application.

To view details of the various council committees including dates of meetings and papers for each meeting, see Council Committees.

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