CfPS has been continuing to work with the Local Government Association and others to promote the importance of overview and scrutiny in holding local authority decision-makers and services to account in the new environment of less central regulation and inspection. A number of outputs will be published in the New Year to support scrutiny councillors in fulfilling their responsibilities. Read more for an update of what’s coming up.
1. Review and challenge: councils’ internal scrutiny arrangements
A project initiated by the Audit Commission to review and assess the effectiveness of the various internal forms of challenge in local authorities – overview and scrutiny, ethical governance arrangements and audit committees – has resulted in a report which CfPS will be publishing in January 2012.
The research and fieldwork carried out by the Office of Public Management and others identified eight important principles for effective internal review and challenge in local authorities:
- have a clear role and purpose within the council's governance arrangements ;
- be a valued contribution to good governance;
- focus on important issues;
- lead and build organisational confidence in challenge;
- use strong evidence basis for reports and recommendations;
- aim to influence the council;
- develop a non-party political and inclusive culture; and
- provide the foundation for review and challenge of organisations outside the council.
The report explores these principles in more depth, with case studies, and will also feature a self-assessment tool with areas for local authorities to consider. The report identifies that this self-assessment can support the wider approach to reviewing accountability, transparency and involvement arrangements set out in CfPS’s Accountability Works for You framework
2. Risk, resilience, failure and recovery (working title)
CfPS has been collaborating with researchers at the Audit Commission to produce two publications on risk factors for scrutineers and others in local councils to look out for in the context of being responsible for their own self-regulation and improvement.
The two publications will be a research report and a shorter guide for OSCs. The work is based on an analysis of eight authorities that went through the intervention and recovery process under the old regime to see what risk factors and lessons can be drawn from their experience, as well as literature reviews on themes including risk, resilience, recovery and failure, and a number of interviews with key players from the last ten years or so. The shorter guide will draw out the key issues and hints and tips on how overview and scrutiny elected members can contribute to helping their authority keep track of its own performance, ensuring it is accountable to local citizens and taxpayers and addressing any emerging problems, risks and weaknesses speedily. We hope to publish by late February 2012.
We hope that the documents will also be useful for the wider local government sector, in particular the Local Government Association which is leading on the approach to sector self-regulation and improvement and providing support through their Taking the Lead
seven-point offer to help local authorities self-regulate and improve. CfPS sits on the LGA’s Advisory Group on Self-Regulation and Improvement and has been contributing to the development of this work. We will be working with a number of authorities in the New Year who have identified a need to improve scrutiny and/or governance through, for example, taking up the LGA’s free offer of a Peer Challenge, and will be using our Accountability Works for You framework to help them do so.