Building the budget through scrutiny
Throughout the past ten years we and others in the sector have spoken extensively about the pressing financial challenges facing local authorities. These have ebbed and flowed – facing councils and councillors in different ways. But as we approach 2021/22, the crisis has both deepened and broadened. The pandemic has highlighted the risks around financial resilience for the sector; next year’s budget will present a fundamental challenge for us all to put the sector on a secure footing for the future.
Earlier this year we published our “Financial scrutiny practice guide” – an attempt to provide a blueprint to councils who want to use scrutiny to tackle this crisis.
We are now launching a comprehensive offer of support to councils to provide practical assistance in building a sustainable approach to financial scrutiny. It will support councils to:
- Identify the key, local outcomes for budget scrutiny – seeing where impact is most likely and focusing efforts there;
- Design a coherent and proportionate plan for scrutiny involvement in the budget process through autumn and winter 20/21. We will work with members to understand their objectives for budget scrutiny, and with councils’ s151 officers to understand where scrutiny might make a positive difference;
- Assist officers in providing councillors with the information and advice they need and expect to support this process;
- Provide coaching and mentoring support to develop councillors’ skills as part of the budget process;
- Evaluate the process once complete in February/March 2021.
We expect that budget scrutiny exercises will need to begin in earnest in early October if they have not done so already. As such, we would strongly encourage councils who want to explore the possibility of this work to get in touch in the next few weeks.
Some of our support may be available to councils for free under our LGA improvement support funding arrangements. Please get in touch to find out.