Chief Exec Update

Posted on 07/10/2022 by Ed Hammond.

This week we have been thinking about the cost-of-living crisis and the contribution that overview and scrutiny can make to understanding the impact that the crisis is having and will continue to have on local people. We have no doubt that this will be a major feature of scrutiny’s work over the autumn and winter. So, we’ve written a short piece here about how you might undertake work on what could be a large, sprawling topic.

In the coming days we will be producing a short digest of national and local information that you could use to support the design and scoping of such reviews. In doing so, we are very keen to hear from councils where “cost of living scrutiny” is under active discussion, to learn more about what you are doing to address the issue.

Closely connected to the cost-of-living crisis is the state of council finances. Planning for the year 23/24 is likely to be exceptionally challenging, and I know that many of you will be limbering up to undertake budget scrutiny activity at the moment. I’d like to point you to our financial scrutiny practice guide, available here, which provides a useful primer in how to undertake some of this important activity.

I’d also like to highlight the fact that in the week of 7th November we will be publishing a digest of further support on finance scrutiny. This will be happening in the same week as a webinar on the subject, at which Guy Clifton of the auditor Grant Thornton will be talking about the link between scrutiny and audit – and the vital role of scrutiny in the governance framework. You can sign up here.

Last week we published a briefing on the implementation of the Health and Care Act. We’re continue to confer closely with the LGA, civil servants at DHSC and others as plans are put in place for Regulations and statutory guidance relating to the Act. A lot of uncertainty remains over the potential powers and roles for scrutiny – we hope the briefing will help to clarify some of these points.

To inform DHSC’s work in developing guidance we are planning a webinar on health scrutiny and new scrutiny powers at the end of November. This will provide a change for you to speak to and hear from national policymakers directly; it is open to both officers and members. We have yet to set a date, but it is likely to fall in the week commencing 21st November. We hope to publicise the exact date and time in the coming weeks.

You may have seen that we are carrying out work to develop a suite of short guides on various matters relating to council constitutions. We’re producing a guide to the structure, content and review of constitutions themselves, a guide on call-in powers (which will benefit from the views expressed by practitioners at some well-attended webinars recently), a guide on schemes of delegation and a guide on the operation of full council meetings. These will all be published between late October and late November. You can read more about our thoughts on council constitutions here, in a blogpost we published a few weeks ago.

Finally, just another reminder of the publication we produced a few weeks back on post-pandemic scrutiny – scrutiny looking back to debrief from the pandemic experience, but also looking forward to understanding how local needs, and demand, has likely shifting significantly. This links back, in some ways, to the cost-of-living material described at the start of this note – it’s all about major change, and the ways in which we can predict it and – where it is likely to be negative – mitigate it.

As ever, CfGS is here to provide assistance and advice on matters relating to scrutiny and corporate governance to those who need it. You can read more about our products and services here. A reminder that for some councils, we can provide these services for free through LGA funding. If you want to speak to someone about this, you can contact me direct at (or just reply to this e-mail)




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.