Abstracts: August 5th, 2004

By Steve Leach and Colin Copus.The introduction, via the Local Government Act 2000, of political executives held to account by influential overview and scrutiny committees challenges fundamentally the traditional operations of the party group system. This paper uses evidence from a variety of sources (including the experience of Parliamentary select committees) to explore how councillors are managing the tensions between party group loyalty and the expectation surrounding the operation of scrutiny. Four models of party group behaviour are identified with the group acting as partner, arbitrator, filter and Leviathan respectively. These typologies are then used (together with research evidence) to interpret the circumstances in which effective scrutiny may be aided or hindered by party group dynamics. Three alternative scenarios, which illustrate the impact of different political dynamics on the effectiveness of scrutiny, are identified and explored. It is concluded that the success of the overview and scrutiny experiment is by no means assured and faced with the intransigent nature of most party group behaviour, the future of effective scrutiny hangs in the balance.

Public Administration Volume 82: Issue 2. ISSN: 0033-3298