POSITIVE SCRUTINY CULTURE
In May 2019, the Government launched new Guidance to ensure local and combined authorities are aware of the purpose of overview and scrutiny and how to conduct it effectively.
In launching the guidance, Rishi Sunk MP Minister for Local Government, said, "The role that overview and scrutiny can play in holding an authority’s decision-makers to account makes it fundamentally important to the successful functioning of local democracy. Effective scrutiny helps secure the efficient delivery of public services and drives improvements within the authority itself. Conversely, poor scrutiny can be indicative of wider governance, leadership and service failure".
He continued..."It is vital that councils and combined authorities know the purpose of scrutiny, what effective scrutiny looks like, how to conduct it and the benefits it can bring".
One of the main areas that the guidance focuses on is organisational culture, and rightly so. Focusing on leadership buy-in, culture and behaviours that are central to ensuring that effective overview and scrutiny can operate, and make an impact. Councils who openly welcome and champion effective challenge and scrutiny benefit from better decisions. Scrutiny and challenge when done properly can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but those that do not shy away reap the rewards. But they leadership buy-in starts at the top of councils, with Chief Executives and senior politicians; understanding that it is their shared responsibility to make scrutiny work!
How do we help?
We help scrutiny committees and councillor to positively focus on creating a positive scrutiny culture, improving working, and demonstrating scrutiny's strategic role. This includes supporting councils to:
Demonstrate the positive benefits of scrutiny, and the difference it can bring to decision making;
Build relationships between the executive, scrutiny and officers - understanding the common issues that should bind their efforts;
Review the effectiveness of scrutiny and plan for improvement;
Understand the attributes of effective scrutiny and how to embed these within your council;
Stay impartial, pushing politics to one-side and focusing on the matter at hand;
Prioritise and plan their work programme.