Draft for consultation: scrutiny self-evaluation framework

Posted on 15/12/2016 by Ed Hammond. Tags:

We’re publishing the draft of a new self-evaluation framework for comment and criticism. You can find it here . 

Back in 2006 we produced the first of these frameworks. Practitioners have always been keen to hold the mirror up to scrutiny itself, to review ourselves and how we conduct our work. But in recent years those reviews have attained an added urgency. The pressure to make financial savings provokes us to think about scrutiny in different ways.

In the worst circumstances, this can mean money taken away from scrutiny without any thought being put into how it must change as a result. A case of diminishing returns sets in, as members struggle to work in the same way with fewer resources, leading to them becoming less effective. In turn, this can lead executives to reflect that scrutiny is less important, and that resourcing should be decreased further.

In better circumstances, where these kinds of financial circumstances can be predicted, time and space is made to consider how scrutiny can change to use less resource, but still to be effective. These kinds of changes to scrutiny can only come about through the use of a methodologically robust and meaningful mechanism to evaluate and design changes.

Our frameworks have always aimed to provide that mechanism. It’s not just for councils going through those kinds of immediate financial hardship – it’s also a necessity for any authority to challenge itself to improve regularly.

We refreshed and updated our framework in 2011/12 and now we’re doing it again. This time, we’re opening up the drafting process to you, to get your views on the kinds of detail and methods you think would be most useful. We’re conscious that, as the number of dedicated scrutiny officers declines, the job of reviewing and evaluating scrutiny often falls to officers without a background in the function – and often officers who are quite junior, too. We’ve put this draft together to reflect this change, hopefully without reducing its utility to more experienced members and officers.

This isn’t just a tool for officers – it’s for members too. Scrutiny is a member led function and we are keen to see members play an active and directing role in improving and developing scrutiny. So member views will be particularly important to us as we refine this.

We are planning to publish the final version of this framework some time in February, so would invite you to have a read and submit your thoughts and comments any time between now and the end of January. If you have some views, please contact me (Ed Hammond) on 020 3866 5109 or ed.hammond@cfgs.org.uk.

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.