Local public accounts committees- Dealing with the governance of complexity at a local level

Posted on 15/03/2023 by Ed Hammond.

Local policy-making is now defined by partnerships – some formal, some informal – between public sector bodies and between the public and private sectors. These trends have created greater complexity and raise challenges for governance and accountability. Where is the public pound being spent and by whom? Who is responsible and accountable for spending decisions? How are spending priorities aligned and how does delivery against these priorities get measured?

Governance has been getting more complex – and necessarily so. Efforts to span partners and partnerships – including the delivery of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda – require systems to be put in place to ensure that money is being spent wisely.

But following the public pound is harder the ever. This is a trend that we identified when, in 2014, we first developed and promulgated the idea of “local Public Accounts Committees” – locally-led bodies with a responsibility to knit together accountability and responsibility for outcomes across a “place”. Since then, we have published a short series of discussion papers developing and refining this idea – and inviting comment. Following on from the last of these conversations in 2018 we had a series of experimental conversations with a range of local areas (mainly, with local councils in those areas) about this model. That work led, in part, to our work on the “Governance risk and resilience framework”, which we published in 2021.

The Labour Party have confirmed that local PACs will be an idea they will seek to take forward in Government. The Conservative Government dwelling increasingly on governance accountability both through the systems proposed in the Levelling Up White Paper and the establishment of OFLOG. Given this, we think that local PACs present a solution to a pressing need, irrespective of policymakers’ position on the political spectrum. 

Read the full discussion paper by clicking the link.

About the Author: Ed Hammond

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