COUNTY council cabinet members will get regular grillings from backbench and opposition councillors as part of a revamp of the authority’s scrutiny system.

The overhaul follows a review of the arrangements by which county councillors hold to account senior politicians and council officers.

Cabinet figures have always been able to be called before cross-party scrutiny committees to answer questions about their portfolio and policies.

But county council leader Phillippa Williamson expects they will now attend the committee meeting relevant to their role “every time” it is held.

She added: “We take a very open approach – if you work well together on these things, then scrutiny can be really helpful, very forward-looking and [help to] shape policies.

“We expect it to be a positive engagement between all parties on the policies we discuss [in scrutiny meetings],” said County Cllr Williamson.

Opposition parties have already expressed unease after it was announced key scrutiny committee chairmanships will be taken by the ruling Tory group. Two out of four will have Labour deputy chairmans, up on the current one slot.

While Labour leader Azhar Ali, has welcomed some of the other steps being taken, he appealed for the administration to hand his party all of the deputy chair positions so that all groups could “work together, collaboratively, to make sure that scrutiny fulfils its function”.

Cllr Ali added: “I don’t think scrutiny is served well if the chairs and deputy chairs are from the same group – that’s not good practice."

He added that Local Government Association (LGA) guidance was for scrutiny committees to be chaired by opposition groups.

Liberal Democrat county group leader David Howarth said: "If you really are serious about scrutiny, you will appoint opposition members as scrutiny chairs."

The Tories voted down an amendment by the Labour group calling for the opposition to secure all of the deputy chairmanships of the scrutiny committees.

But deputy county council leader Alan Vincent said the refreshed system was not “set in stone” – and could change in future if it was considered necessary.

Under the plans a new scrutiny management board will oversee the work of the four committees.

Reform of the committees will see panels covering the environment, economic growth, and transport, the community, cultural and corporate services, health and adult services and also children, families and skills.