Hiding in plain sight: barriers to effective local scrutiny

Posted on 05/04/2015 by Jessica Crowe. Tags: ,

Alexis Jay and Robert Francis Reports into appalling service failure in local public services have, amongst other things, illuminated the risks of weakoverview and scrutiny–either in the capacityof non-executive councillors to carry out their scrutiny role or in the commitment of political leaders and others to respect and support the scrutiny role.

Scrutiny by elected members is one of the mechanisms of local accountability currently relied upon significantly to provide assurance to central government, parliament and the public that public funding is being spent effectively at local level and delivering the outcomes that are expected. While its primary purpose as set outin legislation is to form part of the governance of local authorities and to provide a check and balance to local executives, recent developments such as the governmental accountability systems statements following the demise of the Audit Commission and its central regulatory system have emphasized the importance of scrutiny as a source of national assurance.

At CfGS we wanted to try to establish whether the failings highlighted in the Jay and Francis reports are reflective of a wider national picture and to understand what might lie behind these findings.

Reflecting and expanding on our thoughts relating to scrutiny’s role in the scandals in Rotherham and Stafford, this report sets out further practical advice to scrutineers on how they can understand and take action on failure.