We have always issued our survey with a strong health warning - namely, that while it provides an extremely valuable snapshot of scrutiny nationwide, it is difficult to use it to back up big spending or policy decisions - as you have pointed out. It is as representative as any survey on this subject could be (we think), but as you say the recording of time spend on different responsibilities is difficult and the figures used in the impact assessment seem to be quite general. We would be particularly interested to see the methodology used to arrive at the result they present.
On a slightly different subject (but still connected to the Bill) John Denham gave a speech on scrutiny yesterday at a conference I attended. The full text can be found here - http://www.communities.gov.uk/speeches/c...titlements
I will be uploading a short report on the conference itself, and what happened. It was mainly for members of the voluntary and community sector but some invited scrutineers were present.
Angela Woodhouse from Maidstone asked the Secretary of State directly about the omission of district councils from the Bill. His reply centred on the need to ensure that partners are not overwhelmed by requests from scrutiny - a rationale which I think we can fairly easily counter both through argument and through the many examples of districts working effectively with partners.
No word yet on committee stage. If we end up into next week with no date announced, it becomes increasingly uncertain whether the Bill will have time to go through before dissolution. From having been quite confident a fortnight back, I'm now unsure again. We'll see what happens.