The council is made up of 33 elected members. Those members meet periodically at meetings of full council, and these take place approximately every six weeks. Below the council there is a structure of other bodies which are designed to make decisions and set council policy in an efficient and transparent way.
The membership of each part of the structure is set at the first meeting of the full council after the local government election, but can be reviewed and altered from time to time.
The council has a set of Standing Orders which regulate the way it goes about its business. Standing Orders comprise various elements which apply to different areas of the council's decision-making.
- The council's Scheme of Administration sets out the membership, powers and responsibilities for full council, all its committees, sub-committees, working groups, Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels and Local Area Committees.
- The Scheme of Administration is part of the councils Standing Orders for the Regulation of Meetings which contains the rules and regulations for the way council and committee meetings are organised and run
- The Scheme of Delegations to Officers lists the decisions which the council has decided to leave to employees of the council to make
- The Standing Orders for the Regulation of Contracts set out the rules which apply to the contracts the council enters into
- The Procurement Procedures set out the way the council must go about setting up contracts for the supply of goods and services
- The Financial Regulations contain the council's arrangements for the proper administration of its financial affairs.
Most of the council's important decisions and policies are made by the Council Executive or the Education Executive, although some items of business are kept for decisions by full council. The Council Executive meets twice between meetings of full council, and the Education Executive once.
There are nine Executive Councillors who have responsibility for a particular policy area or portfolio. Those nine Executive Councillors are members of the two Executive Committees, along with three other elected members in each case. In addition, the Education Executive includes three religious representatives, two teachers' representatives and one parent council representative who have the same rights on that committee as elected members.
There are nine other committees which are set up to make decisions in more specialised areas, or to monitor and scrutinise the performance of the council. These committees generally meet once in every six weeks, but some meet monthly and one quarterly. Some do not meet regularly but only when there is business to be dealt with.
The council also operates a system of nine Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels. These are small groups of councillors who develop new policies for the council, or review existing policies to see if changes are needed. They do not have the power to actually make decisions, but they make recommendations to the Council or Education Executive for them to make decisions which are binding on the council.
The council has also set up nine Local Area Committees which are made up of the three or four elected members for each electoral ward. Their job is to act as a forum for discussion of local issues and to provide a focal point for council employees and partner organisations engaged in local area and locality planning. They do not have formal decision-making powers either but can make their views known either where they are asked for recommendations about council policy from a local perspective, or where they have developed local issues on their own for consideration by the council.