Same old message from me . As you know, I am not from a District Council and after March 2010, I will not be from any Council, but I have been involved with the National Networks Forum from its inception and have seen it grow with the potential to become a serious influence on the direction of the CfPS and therefore, hopefully government policy on local government scrutiny. Because the National Forum comprises representatives from scrutiny networks across the country it encompasses counties, districts and unitary councils from Cumbria to Cornwall.
Although I work in a unitary authority it was only recently that I heard about the unitaries and counties network and upon enquiry was told that it tended to be representative of southern and midland areas. Many people working in district councils may well appreciate and value a district's network and I would fully support representatives from that network being on the National Forum, but we must guard against fragmenting scrutiny officer and elected member representation.
Local government scrutiny must speak with one voice and during my time as a member of the CfPS Advisory Board I stressed the need to support officers in all authorities, but especially districts where scrutiny support officers were often isolated and under resourced and definately overworked. I often felt however, that my message did not have sufficient impact.
Local authorities are going to be under severe pressure in the forseeable future irrespective of government and scrutiny will be vulnerable to cuts. It is vital therefore that scrutiny should provide a united front and single message when it comes to consultation and influence.