Skip to main content

Overview of the council's functions

The council of the Royal Borough of Greenwich is composed of 55 councillors.

Each councillor is elected by the voters in one of the 23 wards that make up the borough. Each ward is represented by 2 or 3 councillors. Whole-council elections take place every 4 years.

Councillors are accountable to the residents of their ward - their constituents. The main duty of councillors is to the whole community, but they have a special duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them.

Councillors have to agree to follow a code of conduct to ensure high standards in the way they undertake their duties. The Standards Committee trains and advises them on the code of conduct and considers any alleged breaches.

How decisions are made

All councillors meet together as the council. Meetings of the council are open to the public. Here councillors decide the borough's overall policies and set the budget each year.

The council appoints committees to carry out some council functions, appoints and holds to account the leader of the council and may hold annual state of the borough debates.

The council considers motions and questions submitted by councillors and there is provision for public questions and deputations. The council also receives petitions submitted by local residents and debates the action being taken in response.

The council appoints committees and delegates some of its functions to them, such as planning and licensing functions. It appoints the mayor, the leader of the council (for a 4 year term) and agrees the annual calendar of meetings.

The leader of the council

The leader of the council is appointed for a 4 year term at the first annual meeting of the council following the borough-wide elections.

All executive functions reside with the leader of the council and they appoint the cabinet, agree the scheme of delegation to the cabinet, its sub-committees and chief officers. Executive functions are all functions which are not specifically reserved by law to the council.

The cabinet

The council appoints the leader, who in turn appoints the cabinet and assigns to each cabinet member a specific portfolio. The cabinet is responsible for those executive functions delegated to it by the leader of the council.

Each cabinet member is responsible for the development of policy in their portfolio and for bringing forward specific proposals. Cabinet members can take individual decisions in line with the scheme of delegation detailed in Part 3A of the constitution.

When key decisions are to be discussed or made, 28 clear days' notice will be given, in so far as they can be anticipated. Meetings of the cabinet are open for the public to attend, except where personal or confidential matters are being discussed.

The leader, cabinet and individual cabinet members have to make decisions which are in line with the Royal Borough of Greenwich's overall policies and budget. If the leader, cabinet and individual cabinet members wish to make a decision which is outside the budget or policy framework, this must be referred to the council as a whole to decide.

Find out more about the leader and cabinet

Overview and Scrutiny Committee

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the 6 scrutiny panels, support the work of the cabinet and the council. They allow citizens to have a greater say in council matters by holding public inquiries into matters of local concern. These lead to reports and recommendations which advise the cabinet and the council on its policies, budget and service delivery. The cabinet or the council may also consult the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the scrutiny panels, on forthcoming decisions and the development of policy.

Each scrutiny panel will also undertake a more in-depth review on a matter of importance to the public on services provided by us or by other public bodies whose work impacts on residents. The work programme for the whole function is set annually by the full council following suggestions from Overview and Scrutiny councillors.

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the scrutiny panels are all 'politically balanced' - this means that their memberships should be in the same proportion as the size of the political parties on the council as a whole.

The Standards Committee

This consists of 3 councillors, from all political parties represented on the council, and 3 independent members. The panel is chaired by an independent member.

Its role is to promote high standards of conduct in the way councillors and co-opted members undertake their duties, to provide training and advice on the code of conduct and to consider alleged breaches of the code referred to by the public and other councillors.

The panel will be advised by an independent person appointed by the council prior to deciding what action should be taken following the investigation of a complaint that a member or co-opted member has breached the code of conduct.

More on the Standards Committee

Council staff

The council has people working for it - known as officers - to give advice, implement decisions and manage the day-to-day delivery of its services. Some officers have a specific duty to ensure that the council acts within the law and uses its resources wisely.