Chief executive’s update: April 2023

Posted on 28/04/2023 by Ed Hammond.

This is the last of these updates I’ll produce – after nine months as Acting Chief Executive I will, on 2 May, be welcoming our new CEO Mel Stevens to CfGS. I’ll be returning to my substantive role as Deputy Chief Executive.

We can point to a significant amount of (productive) activity in the past month – the publication of new guidance on call-in, on council constitutions and on the operation of council schemes of delegation. The production of this more technical guidance reflects the direction that more of our work is leaning in – increasingly our support to councils encompasses the whole governance framework, not just overview and scrutiny. We are doing more and more to support councils to review and improve their constitutions; if you think this is the kind of support we can provide to your authority, please get in touch.

My colleague Helen Mitchell has produced a blog which will be highly relevant for those of you about to go into elections into the coming week. Highlighting the need to plan to accommodate unexpected changes in political control, it will I think be vital reading for those about to experience the bumpy consequences of local democracy in the form of a change of political control. Officers have plenty to do during this period – Helen’s advice will hopefully be of use. You can read the full blog here.

We have just started to conduct the analysis for the annual survey of overview and scrutiny in local government, and I have just written a set of “headline findings” for you to think about while you wait for the full report, which we aim to publish to coincide with our Annual Conference. You can read this here.

On which subject – our Conference is being held on 14 June in London. Places are filling up; we expect a large number of bookings once elections are out of the way. If you think you are likely to come I would urge you to either book now, or to get in touch with us advising that you plan to book so that we can – where necessary – hold back a ticket or two for you. In previous years we have reached capacity about three weeks before the Conference itself – we have a little more space this year but please don’t leave it to the last minute. Book your place here. 

We have a little material for you on health scrutiny this month – a blog on the outcome of the Hewitt Review, which will be of interest to anyone thinking about ICS governance, and a digest of some of our recent material on health scrutiny, to act as a primer to practitioners wanting a holistic view of this vital council function. On the wider question of the future of health scrutiny, and in particular the status of the power to refer “substantial variations” to the Secretary of State for review – I appreciate there hasn’t been much on this recently, but watch this space, we hope to able to share more soon.

English devolution enthusiasts will have been spoiled recently with the publication of the English Devolution Accountability Framework. We produced a long read on the EDAF which highlights the centrality of scrutiny to Government’s plans – we are actively working with combined authorities at the moment to take forward Government’s plans for a “Scrutiny Protocol”, initially to apply to CAs only but potentially in due course to other authorities. If your authority is engaged in the dealmaking or negotiation process at the moment please get in touch so that we can loop you into this national conversation.

Finally, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention our long-standing training offer. You can access our training services in two places – through regional scrutiny networks where we provide free LGA-funded “taster” training on a range of topics (like questioning skills, scrutiny essentials, financial scrutiny skills and so on), and directly by commissioning us to carry out training in your authority in person or remotely. We are doing a lot of member induction training in the next month but still have some slots in June and July if you need us. A reminder that our training offer is focused on elected members. Officer training / CPD is the domain of the Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO) and, as ever, I’d recommend officers reading this who aren’t yet members to join.




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.