(12-04-2012 10:38 AM)Josh Mynott Wrote: It is interesting how much time scrutiny spends monitoring, tracking and following up. The question we need to ask is simple - Why?
I completely accept that recommendations should get a response from the Executive or whoever. Beyond that, I would agree with Suzanne that it is the job of the executive, and perhaps go further by suggesting that tracking recommendations is an inappropriate use of scrutiny's limited time and resources and may encourage poor quality scrutiny in the first place.
I could write an essay on this, and I really should be getting on with other things, but just a few thoughts:
• Sometimes, the process of examining a person, policy or practice closely is a good thing in itself. You don't always need to make recommendations to be followed up. You've put someone through the wringer. Move on.
• Consider how much time is spent rehashing old arguments that could be spent on properly scrutinising something else. Scrutiny should be about seeing a problem, getting stuck into it quickly, making suggestions to make it better and moving on to the next problem. Why revisit it? There's a law of diminishing returns here – you'll get stuck having the same debate again and again on a decreasing number of essentially insoluble points
• Monitoring outcomes is often justified as "demonstrating the value of scrutiny". But it actually demonstrates the weakness of scrutiny. A strong scrutiny function would simply assume that its recommendations were being properly considered, and the outcomes would be obvious to all
• It encourages recommendations that can be ticked off, rather than ones which make a difference. This leads to poor scrutiny in the first place, seeking easy platitudes rather than complex solutions. The argument about performance monitoring everything in a noughties style is lost (hooray). Many forms of "tracking" or "monitoring" are simply that old fashioned performance monitoring in disguise.
• Finally (thankfully), there is a real danger that it becomes self indulgent, that scrutiny exists to demonstrate how good scrutiny is. The point is surely for us to contribute to making our areas better places, not to haggle about who gets the credit for it (I accept this is not an easy point for politicians to act upon).
Maybe I exaggerate a little, but I think there is always a danger of scrutiny being sidelined, and I wonder if we sometimes inadvertently encourage that by doing the amount of self examination and internal monitoring we do.
Josh, I agree that Scrutiny can have positive outcomes without necessarily always making recommendations, but I think it is important to keep track of recommendations, in order to see whether they have been implemented ( and if not, why? ) and also to see whether they have had an impact.
Re: Self indulgence, do you not think that there is a danger of this being more the case if Scrutiny does not apply its own standards of critical analysis to the value of its own work?
Having done some analysis on the impact of a task group which we recently carried out, it has shown a real improvement in the service delivered and a reduction in the level of complaints received, and an increase in compliments. Rather than being self indulgent I think that this has reinforced the value of scrutiny and shown that it can add value.
I will add the caveat that I fully accept all Councils differ massively and that I don't think there is a one size fits all approach to good scrutiny.