CfPS Research Asks 'Can a Committee System be Transparent, Inclusive & Accountable?'
Councils considering a 'committee system' should be clear about how this improves transparency, inclusiveness and accountability says the Centre for Public Scrutiny in a forthcoming report.
'Musical Chairs', to be published later this month, examines the opportunities and pitfalls presented by freedoms in the Localism Act 2011 to move away from leader and cabinet models - a decision some councils have already taken.
The report warns that approaching governance arrangements as an internal, administrative exercise risks missing wider implications and impacts on planning and delivering services. Councils hoping to solve organisational and/or political problems, or become more democratic, through a committee system, should think about leadership and management culture and values rather than structures.
The report will set out some key messages for council leaders and senior managers:
- be clear about the reasons for change, the expected outcomes and plans to evaluate against them. Being clear about culture and values will help councils assess how councillors can best add value to their communities and to the running of the council.
- get others involved. The public sector has changed significantly since councils last changed governance arrangements - different approaches to service planning and delivery (for example through commissioning, partnerships or innovative collaborations) may significantly influence the style of governance councils adopt.
- forward planning and effective delegation are crucial so that councillors focus on strategic issues where they can add value, fitting in with the business cycle of partners and presenting citizens' views when they can best have influence.
- there is a clear case for maintaining a “scrutiny” function. Councils should be clear about what checks and balances service committees will employ to mitigate risks and drive improvements. Citizens need assurance that scrutiny is empowered to horizon-scan and investigate cross-cutting issues of community interest, for example crime and disorder, health and other partners.