BLOG: The past and future of CfGS
Happy New Year!
2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny.
We were set up by the Local Government Association, the Local Government Information Unit and CIPFA to be a national centre of excellence for what was then the brand-new overview and scrutiny function in local government. Over the course of the past two decades are role has shifted but the core of our work still remains a focus on O&S and its role at the centre of local democratic decision-making.
The political and social landscape has changed enormously since the early 00s. My own local government career didn’t start until 2004 but, looking back, it seems very remote. The councils I worked for before joining CfPS (as it then was) had large, strong corporate cores. At my first job I was part of a democratic services team numbering 16 full-time employees – at my second I was one of nearly 20 staff working in a policy and performance team. Neither council was especially unusual; despite challenges they had the resource, time and space to innovate and to make considered plans for the future alongside the delivery of existing commitments.
Things now look and feel very different, and have done for some time. This has influenced and informed the way that we work. From an organisation providing support and training on overview and scrutiny we have evolved into one providing more strategic support on improvement, with a particularly focus on corporate governance and political relationships.
This is not the end-point, however. Change continues, and accelerates. We know that the pandemic, and the current severe stresses affecting public services, may upend local people’s expectations about their relationship with public services, and may need to shift how public services respond to those expectations too. Local government, and local democracy, is at the heart of this. While turnout in local elections continues to drop (and voting patterns feel like they reflect people’s attitude towards political parties nationally rather than locally) what can we do to build and support local governance systems that are truly responsive to people’s needs, as well as providing those people with both oversight and power over those systems?
We are grappling with these issues as we consider what the next few years holds for CfGS. Over the course of the coming weeks and months we are keen to engage with governance and scrutiny practitioners, as well as others with a wider stake in local democracy, to understand the impact our work currently has and how we might change our focus to meet these new challenges.
This work will go on to act as the foundation for a strategy to guide our work in the medium and long term.
If you have thoughts on the past, current and future role of CfGS, we’d be keen to hear them. In the next few weeks we will be putting out more information about exactly what this engagement exercise will look like – and, given our thoughts above, we’d be keen to get your thoughts on that, too. You can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly with me at email@example.com.