Chief executive’s update: 23 September 2022
With national politics restarting this week after the Queen’s funeral, there is plenty in the new PM’s inbox – and plenty for those of us in local government to think about as the autumn approaches.
At the moment we at CfGS are thinking a lot about levelling up. In the trade press in the last couple of days there have been noises about the Bill being significantly altered – “gutted”, even – before it comes back to the Public Bill Committee for further scrutiny in mid October. Whether or not that happens, growth clearly remains a priority for Government. “Levelling up” as a slogan may gradually fade away but I am prepared to be a hostage to fortune and predict that investment, growth and devolution will continue to be top of the agenda in some form.
For the moment, though, the Bill is still with us. We’ve produced a briefing for Parliamentarians and others on what we consider to be the big governance implications arising from the Bill, and how the Bill’s position on governance can be strengthened.
Also this week we are publishing:
- Our annual survey of overview and scrutiny in local government. We’ve published a separate short blog on this subject highlighting some of our key findings. TL:DR – scrutiny is most effective when properly resourced and when supported by an executive that is open to challenge. This won’t come as a surprise, but there are some nuggets in there that *will* interest you – particularly on opposition chairing of scrutiny committees. Click here to find out more;
- A publication on scrutiny’s contribution to councils’ thinking on critical risks, especially in relation to commercial activity. The latest in a suite of publications we have produced on risk and commercialisation, this moves the conversation on by providing further practical suggestions to scrutineers on how they can handle these complex issues.
We’ve published a few blogposts over the past few days, highlighting recent work that we’ve done and things to look out for:
- Focusing on scrutiny work which “debriefs” from the pandemic, and that looks ahead to understand how the pandemic has affected councils’ plans for the future. Trying to take stock and understand how the pandemic has shifted local needs is a really important thing for scrutiny to do now – it connects directly into councils’ response to the cost of living crisis, too. Here’s our blog and our recent publication on the subject. On a similar topic, our Senior Governance Consultant Camilla de Bernhardt Lane (who is on secondment with us from Devon County Council) has blogged on the broader subject of scrutiny’s contribution to “horizon scanning” – read it here.
- Reviewing council constitutions. Later in the year we are publishing a guide for councils undertaking reviews of their constitutions. The stresses and pressures of the last few years are (rightly) causing councils to think about the governance framework. Ensuring that the constitution is technically legally compliant is only part of this story – the constitution has to be a document that is owned and understood by all. Read our blog on the subject.
- Electoral reviews. CfGS is drawing towards the conclusion of a major piece of work supported by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, looking at the process and outcome of the LGBCE’s reviews of council ward and division boundaries. This research will be published later in the autumn but for now we have produced a short blog flagging some of the key issues;
- You may remember that last year we published our “governance risk and resilience framework”, a tool to help members and officers in local authorities to better understand, and tackle, risks to good governance. With so much in the news about risks of council failure, and Government intervention, we wanted to bring your attention to it again. You can read the full framework here and a recent blog here;
- Finally, our Research and Project Officer Annette Aiken has written a short guide on writing effective survey and research questions.
We have a few events coming up in the coming weeks:
We are running a few sessions in the next fortnight, along with our partners at ADSO and LLG, to explore councils’ approaches to call-in – this precedes the publication of a guide on the subject later in the autumn. These sessions are designed to gather your experiences.
- Tuesday 27 September, 11am-12.30pm (officers only): SOLD OUT
- Wednesday 28 September, 11am-12.30pm (members only): https://buytickets.at/centreforgovernanceandscrutiny/738203
- EXTRA DATE: Thursday 13 October: 11am-12.30pm (officers only): https://buytickets.at/centreforgovernanceandscrutiny/767663
Training for new scrutiny officers
Our Principal Governance Consultant Ian Parry is hosting this webinar for new officers on 4 October at 10am, to provide an introduction to the role – sign up at buff.ly/3AxZTEj
Delivering training through regional scrutiny networks
Across England, we are planning and delivering training on a range of subjects through our links with regional scrutiny networks. As we come to schedule more of these we’ll post a full list on our website.
Our products and services
We’ve taken the opportunity to review and refresh how we talk about our products and services on our website – making clearer our paid-for services and where LGA support means we’re able to offer assistance for free. You probably know that we provide training services to councils and can review your scrutiny function for you, but there’s much more that we can offer. In a future blog I’ll be digging into our work in more detail but for the moment, take a look at what we can do to help you. If you have a need that we think we can fill, either drop me a line directly or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
To look out for: ongoing work on health scrutiny
We are working with DHSC to pull together plans for an event later in the autumn, to provide an opportunity for scrutiny practitioners – members and officers – to come together to discuss the content of new health scrutiny Regulations and new statutory guidance on health scrutiny. The date for this will be published in the coming days.
We anticipate demand for this event being especially high, and we are thinking of ways in which we can offer an opportunity for practitioners to interact with DHSC civil servants, and each other, without the event being unwieldy, and without unreasonably capping numbers.