Overview and Scrutiny

Scrutiny Guidance

Written Evidence

Why Do We Need Written Evidence?

In order to assist the Inquiry Panel to identify the areas where their investigations can best produce useful results it is first important for them to have an overview of all the areas they could explore in relation to their subject area.

They will then use this and other information to explore and decide which specific areas they are going to examine further, who they want to invite to provide further evidence and what they want to know about. This ensures the limited time available for taking oral evidence is well targeted.

Further evidence may be required in the form of :

  • Inviting people to answer questions in a face to face sessions– otherwise known as giving ‘oral evidence’
  • Going to meet people / see places on a site visit
  • Further written information in a specific area.

What Form Should The Written Evidence Take?

We do not wish to be rigid about the form of your written evidence however it is important that the evidence is sufficiently clear and easy to access to make sure your points are coming across and will be understood.

There are three areas you need to make sure you pay careful attention to:

The Nature of the Evidence:

  • It is important that it is evidence based (i.e. includes facts) rather than merely your opinion.
  • A balance between brevity and clarity is idea

The Content

Please include

  • Clear details of who has submitted the evidence and their contact details
  • A brief introduction to you (the person/persons) or organisation submitting the evidence
  • A small amount of background context to the information you are providing
  • Any factual information you have to offer which might be able to help the Inquiry Panel draw conclusions or enquire further elsewhere productively
  • Any recommended areas for action / exploration by the Inquiry
    • Areas for improvement / issues of concern
    • Gaps in service / policy etc

You may request the opportunity to give oral evidence but whether this is granted will depend upon the Panels’ judgement that you:

  • have further evidence to provide
  • that it is in areas they have chosen to investigate in detail.

The Layout

  • Please make sure that different points you want to make are clearly separated using headings where possible
  • If your evidence is more than one page long please number headings and paragraphs
  • If evidence is longer than 4 pages of A4 then it should include a maximum one page summary and index of contents at the front
  • If you provide graphs or diagrams make sure they can be easily understood if printed in black and white
  • Label and explain numbers or data  

If you wish to include supplementary material (leaflets etc) that is fine although it is helpful if you could include the overall points they make in your main written submission and just refer to them. These types of item often get accidentally separated and it is important that the points are not also lost.

Individual Cases

It should be noted that individual cases cannot be included in Scrutiny Inquiries unless they are included along with other evidence which demonstrates a trend, pattern or policy of Hampshire which requires investigation.

Individual cases which have caused concern should be dealt with via the appropriate channels. Please see the Corporate Complaints Procedure

Alternatives to Providing Written Reports

We are aware that not everyone is comfortable with writing ‘reports’ and we do not want this to be a barrier to your contribution.

If you are happier writing an email or letter then that is fine, you just need to make sure you keep to the first two points from the section above:

  • provide facts rather than just opinion

  • cover the content laid out above

If you are not able to provide written information then please contact the scrutiny officer supporting the review.

Publication

Unless written evidence is requested to be confidential (see below), once written evidence has been sent in it is for the Inquiry Panel to decide the manner and timing of it’s publication and their permission (which will often be given) is required if witnesses wish to distribute or publish it  before the Inquiry Panel has decided to do so.

Witnesses should therefore consult the Clerk in advance if they wish to publish their evidence, (there is no objection to witnesses simply outlining the views expressed in it).

Confidentiality

If you wish any or all of your written evidence to be confidential to the Inquiry Panel made clear in a covering letter with reasons. If necessary this can be discussed in advance with one of the two people named above. The decision to accede to this request is a matter for the Inquiry Panel itself.

It should be noted that under the Freedom of Information Act there needs to be good reason for confidentiality and certain categories of information are exempt from publication under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

How to Submit Written Evidence

Please feel free to send your evidence electronically as a PDF file or on a computer package compatible with Microsoft Office.

Evidence sent on paper will need to be copied at this end for others to read so please make sure pages are numbered and the layout is clear. If you attach leaflets or other documents please make sure it is clear how they relate to other documentation.

Paper evidence needs to be clearly marked with the title of the Inquiry

 

Oral Evidence

Why Do I have to Give Written Evidence First?

An Inquiry Panel’s time for taking oral evidence is limited so ideally all witnesses, even those whom an Inquiry Panel expects to invite to give oral evidence, are encouraged to submit written evidence; this not only makes oral evidence hearings more productive, as members use the written evidence to prepare useful areas of questioning, but also means that if witnesses are not invited or cannot attend to give oral evidence the Inquiry Panel still has the benefit of their views.

Following the initial written evidence the Inquiry Panel will invite those witnesses they wish to question to an oral session

Can I Know The Questions Beforehand?

It is often possible, with the Panel’s agreement, to assist witnesses with their preparation by informing them of the possible lines of inquiry but witnesses should not expect Panel members to restrict themselves to these areas only.

Public / Private:

Inquiry Panels nearly always take their evidence in public so that you should expect there may be others observing or even recording the Hearing. If there is a good reason why you want to give some or all of your evidence in private you will need to discuss this with the Democratic services Officer or Scrutiny Manager at the time you are first invited to attend as an oral witness.

What will Happen at the witness session?

Oral evidence sessions are normally no longer than 2 hours long and there will be likely to be several so that different witnesses can be called.

You may not be the only witness at a session  and you will be asked to introduce yourself at the outset.

Witnesses at an oral session will not be allowed to make opening or closing statements unless specifically requested to do so – all such evidence should normally be included in written evidence submitted beforehand. You will be there to answer questions.

Your evidence may be recorded to ensure that vital information is not lost although this will not all be transcribed.

The last witness at the last oral session of an Inquiry will normally be the Executive Member for the relevant area to allow them to provide the overview and policy context.

What will happen to my Oral Evidence?

Oral evidence sessions may be recorded and these records kept for one year after the end of the Inquiry.

  • Where they are recorded only those parts of the oral evidence that are contentious or are considered especially significant to the recommendations of the Panel will be transcribed and may be used in the report.

  • If the session was recorded then at the end of the Oral sessions witnesses may request to see any transcripts of evidence they have given.

Evidence that is not recorded or transcribed will be written up as themes which will attempt to cover the key points you made.

After the session you will be sent the notes of your evidence (or transcribed parts where they exist and if you have requested them).

  • You will be given the right to challenge the accuracy of recording as long as this is done within 14 calendar days of them being sent.

  • If no challenge to accuracy is made within 14 days then the notes (and any transcripts) will be assumed to be approved and no further challenge will be possible unless prior warning was given of a practical reason why you would not be able to respond within this time.

  • Once the 14 days are over the notes of the evidence will be published on the web site.

Further Questions

If you have any further questions about the process the scrutiny officer supporting the review should be able to respond to these.