Councillors are responsible for the overall policy direction of the Council and take all of the significant decisions concerning the Authority's services and expenditure.
Everybody's life is affected by the decisions of their local Council. They can include for example the collection of household rubbish, improvements to a housing estate, the facilities on offer at a sports centre or simply the level of Council Tax. Most of these decisions are taken in Committee meetings.
The decision makers
There are 42 Members of the Council (councillors), three for each of the 14 Wards, elected to represent the public. Councillors undertake official duties in their own time and receive a small allowance, mainly to cover out of pocket expenses.
All 42 councillors meet several times a year to approve the budget, the level of the Council Tax and key policy documents. It is not practical for all issues to be discussed at the full meetings of the Council. Business is therefore conducted through a network of Committees and Sub-Committees, each comprising between five and 15 Members. The Main Policy Committees meet five times a year except for Planning Committee, which meets every three weeks to consider major planning applications and development related policy, and Corporate Management, which meets eleven times a year. Their decisions are generally final although recommendations on some policy matters must subsequently be approved by the Full Council.
The effectiveness of the Council's services and decisions is scrutinised by the Overview and Scrutiny Select Committee. This has the powers to 'call-in' for reconsideration relevant decisions made but not yet implemented. The Committee can also investigate any aspect of the Council's services or performance. The Committee reviews and develops policy. It does not have any decision making powers but can make recommendations for change to the appropriate Policy Committee or Full Council.
The Crime and Disorder Committee reviews and scrutinises actions taken by authorities exercising crime and disorder functions, community safety strategy and Safer Runnymede.
A Standards and Audit Committee, composed of ten councillors, meets regularly to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by the 42 councillors and to assist them to observe the Council's Code of Conduct.
On a day to day basis the Council is run by paid employees (officers) who make decisions in accordance with policies previously approved by councillors and in accordance with the Scheme Of Officer Delegations which sets out the issues that Officers can deal with without taking the matter to a Committee to decide.