Government guidance on overview and scrutiny to be published in December

Posted on August 9, 2018 by Ed Hammond. Tags: , ,

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(EDIT, September 2018: We have now published more information about the overview and scrutiny guidance, which you can find here)

We are working with MHCLG to produce guidance on the operation of local authority overview and scrutiny, which we expect will be published during December.

This guidance follows the Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s inquiry into overview and scrutiny, which reported late last year, and a Government commitment shortly afterwards that such guidance would be issued in due course.

Government has chosen to contract with CfPS to carry out some of the work related to the guidance’s preparation, and we have discussed with civil servants how this might happen. We will be leading on the drafting of some sections of the guidance and we will also be facilitating a roundtable meeting – more on which below.

In particular, we have discussed with MHCLG the importance of making sure that practitioners have an opportunity to feed into and shape the guidance.

We expect that this will happen in two ways.

Firstly, MHCLG will be producing a short discussion paper to inform broad debate in the sector. This will be published shortly and will be accompanied by a summary of the likely structure of the guidance, so that you can get an idea of its content and the approach that will be taken in authoring it. This will be a good basis for discussions at regional scrutiny networks and in individual councils. We strongly recommend that those discussions happen – in principle MHCLG civil servants are ready and willing to attend regional network meetings and we, too, will do what we can to attend meetings on request. You can send any and all views to us, and to MHCLG (full contact details below).

Secondly, MHCLG will be convening a roundtable meeting, probably in Birmingham, probably in mid to late September. This will be invite-only and will provide an opportunity for civil servants to get a more nuanced understanding about the specific areas of scrutiny practice to cover. As things stand MHCLG is keen to use that meeting to explore access to information and scrutiny’s ability to influence actors beyond the council.

We are working with MHCLG on the invite list for this meeting. They want to make sure that they benefit from the expertise of a mix of councillors and officers (some national-level experts and academics are also being invited). Obviously we can’t yet confirm the date and space is very limited but if you think you would particularly like to come then please let us know.

Government’s timetable for completing drafting the guidance is very tight. Because of the necessity to secure cross-Government agreement on the guidance, and the need to meet the commitment given to Clive Betts that the guidance would be produced by the end of the year, they expect to wrap up drafting during October. The current plan is that the guidance will be published in early December.

With us very much in the throes of the summer holidays this presents some real challenges for you in being able to get together and think about what you want to get out of this guidance – how it might help, or hinder, you – and to make your voice heard. We are ready to do whatever we can to facilitate that process. It is not ideal that this process has taken so long to get off the ground, and that now that things are moving, that the timescales for writing the guidance are so constrained.

We’ll be publishing more on this – starting with the discussion paper and the likely structure of the guidance – in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime if you want to discuss anything here you can contact me directly on 020 2866 5109 or ed.hammond@cfps.org.uk. Or, you can contact directly the civil servant leading on the drafting of the guidance. This is Graham Knapper, in MHCLG’s Local Government Stewardship Division, on 0303 444 3667 or at graham.knapper@communities.gsi.gov.uk

About the Author: Ed Hammond

Ed leads CfPS's work on devolution, transformation and on support to councils and other public bodies on governance and accountability.