Chief Exec’s Update, January 2023

Posted on 23/01/2023 by Ed Hammond.

2023 is going to be an exciting year for CfGS.

Firstly, we’ve just opened bookings for our Annual Conference, now back in its old timeslot of mid-June. This is a great opportunity to come together with fellow scrutineers, to share and to learn from each other. The team has put together a great programme which will see us focusing on public trust, and culture, as central components of good governance and scrutiny. I really hope to see as many people as possible coming to take part. You can book your tickets here.

Conversations at our conference will be helping us to set clear plans for the future of the organisation. At a staff awayday this week we started thinking about these things, kicking off a strategy which will continue in the coming months. Our Board is coming together for an awayday of their own in March to set the parameters for a plan to take us through to 2026/27.

This work has to be informed by our stakeholders’ views around our focus as an organisation and our priorities. We need to be financially sustainable, and to ensure we’re delivering our charitable objects. With the world of governance and local democracy changing rapidly, we need to understand the nature of those changes and be on the front foot in supporting people in tackling them. You can read more about our ongoing strategy review here.

Thinking about the long term is important – but we also have some immediate challenges to address.

The current crisis affecting the health and care system is placing huge pressures on local communities – there is a role for local overview and scrutiny arrangements to seek to understand and make recommendations on these pressures. You can read our blog on the issue here.

The cost of living crisis is also challenging everyone’s resilience. For councils as institutions it poses challenges around support for staff, the impact of increased energy costs and, of course, inflationary pressures. In respect of service provision, local people’s needs are likely to become keener and more complex. Just before Christmas we published an information digest on the crisis, providing pointers and advice to scrutineers seeking to investigate this issue at a local level, which you can read here.

On the more general subject to support to scrutiny, we have recently republished some of our historic advice on effective scrutiny, which we have pulled together into a “scrutiny practitioners’ guide” – downloadable here. In the next few weeks we will be publishing a similar, general, guide on health scrutiny, with one of children’s services scrutiny following by the end of the financial year. Also, look out for forthcoming guides on call-in, reviewing council constitutions, the operation of full council meetings and delegated decision-making – all forming part of a suite of publications on council governance generally, and being released in the coming weeks. More on this in future updates.

Finally, this is the time of year for our regular, annual survey of overview and scrutiny in local government. Recognising that previous versions have asked a lot, in both length and detail, we have significantly cut the length this year. The survey is open until early March – please do fill it in and encourage other officers and members at your authority to do the same.




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.