The Local Government Chronicle gave exclusive coverage to our report ‘Musical Chairs’
on 19 April 2012 and we have now published the report on our website, along with two appendices which show a ‘spectrum of council governance’ and the report methodology. Coverage of the report was the first item in the printed version of the LGC magazine and on the website LGCplus.com. The report has been keenly awaited as a contribution to the debate about the opportunities and pitfalls presented by freedoms in the Localism Act 2011 to move away from leader and cabinet models.
The report sets out key findings about how some councils are approaching the opportunity to choose a committee style of governance, in particular the extent to which governance arrangements are seen in the wider context of checks and balances in local government. The report warns that, far from being an internal administrative exercise, changing governance arrangements needs to be seen in the context of the 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 first consider their organisational culture and values before deciding to change structures and processes.
The report identifies four 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.
Download Musical chairs here
To complement the publication of the report there is a discussion thread running on our website