The law lays down, in broad terms, the types of decisions that can be taken by the full Council, by Committees the full Council appoints, by the Cabinet, and by Overview and Scrutiny Panels. The law classes various types of decision as either "Executive" or "Non-Executive". Executive decisions must be taken by the Cabinet, or by an individual member of the Cabinet, or by an officer under powers granted by the Cabinet. Non-executive decisions must be taken by the full Council, or by a Committee, or by an officer under powers granted by the Council or a Committee. Overview and Scrutiny Panels are responsible, broadly, for reviewing policies and examining decisions to ensure the Cabinet does not exceed its powers.
The full Council comprises all 60 Councillors, elected every 4 years by residents of the District. (The last elections were in May 2011; the next are in May 2015). The full Council makes major strategic and policy decisions, and sets the budget and the Council tax. It also chooses the Chairman of the Council and the Leader of the Council, and appoints Committees to carry out many of its functions. There are 52 Conservative, 6 Liberal Democrat and 2 UKIP members.
The Cabinet is a group of 6 Councillors, all from the majority political group (Conservative) represented on the Council. The Leader of the Council (Cllr Barry Rickman) chairs the Cabinet. He has appointed the other 5 members. The Cabinet is responsible for taking all decisions classed by the law as "Executive" decisions. Many of these decisions are taken at a meeting of the whole Cabinet. However, each Cabinet member has a "portfolio", that is, a list of the responsibilities assigned specifically to that member. Subject to certain conditions, individual Cabinet members are able to take decisions on matters within their portfolio.
Committees are groups of Councillors appointed by the full Council. They are appointed "proportionally" - that is, they contain Councillors from more than one political group, in the same proportion as the political groups are represented on the Council.
Overview and Scrutiny Panels
Overview and Scrutiny Panels, like Committees, are appointed "proportionally". There are 3 Panels, each comprising 10 Councillors. Cabinet members cannot serve on Overview and Scrutiny Panels. Each Panel is responsible for overview and scrutiny of a number of service areas. The Panels can undertake reviews of the Council's policies, either on their own initiative or at the request of the Council or the Cabinet, advise on policy development, and review executive decisions to make sure the Cabinet does not exceed its powers.