The paper analyses theoretically what role fiscal councils could play and surveys empirically the activities of existing councils. Case studies of the Swedish Fiscal Policy Council and the UK Office for Budget Responsibility are done. It is concluded that fiscal councils should be advisory, rather than decision-making, and work as complements, rather than substitutes, to fiscal rules. A key issue is the political fragility of fiscal councils and how their long-run viability should be secured. Three ways of guaranteeing their independence are suggested: (1) reputation-building; (2)formal national rules; and (3) international monitoring.