Governance risk and resilience
In March last year (2021) we published the “Governance risk and resilience” – a set of material designed to support people working in councils (and in other parts of the public sector too) to understand some of the behaviours and challenges that can lead to weakness in the corporate governance framework.
Since then we have worked with a few councils to further explore the framework and its practical use. We’re keen to expand this – to see more councils (and more councillors and officers) to make practical use of the framework. This blogpost is about how that might happen.
Firstly, one of the core principles sitting behind the framework is that it can be used by any individual in a council – it doesn’t need to be “adopted” formally by an authority or facilitated by an external organisation like ours! This is what we think gives it its unique strength, and makes it a viable proposition as an improvement tool. We specifically designed it this way, given
So one thing we’re keen to encourage is for councillors and officers to unilaterally take a look at the framework – in particular the set of characteristics which the framework sets out as a guide to reflection on where strengths and weaknesses in governance might lie.
As a reminder the framework invites you to consider the following points:
- Extent of recognition of individual and collective responsibility for good governance. This is about ownership of governance and its associated systems;
- Awareness of political dynamics. This is about the understanding of the unique role that politics plays in local governance and local government. Positive behaviour here recognises the need for the tension and “grit” in the system that local politics brings, and its positive impact on making decision-making more robust;
- How the council looks to the future to set its decision-making priorities. This is about future planning, and insight into what the future might hold for the area, or for the council as an institution and includes the way the council thinks about risk;
- Officer and councillor roles. Particularly at the top level, this is about clear mutual roles in support of robust and effective decision-making and oversight. It also links to communication between key individuals, and circumstances where ownership means that everyone has a clear sense of where accountability and responsibility lie;
- How the council’s real situation compares to its sense of itself. This is about internal candour and reflection; the need to face up to unpleasant realities and to listen to dissenting voices. The idea of a council turning its back on things “not invented here” may be evidence of poor behaviours, but equally a focus on new initiatives and “innovation” as a way to distract attention, and to procrastinate, may also be present;
- Quality of local (external) relationships. This is about the council’s ability to integrate an understanding of partnership working and partnership needs in its governance arrangements, and about a similar integration of an understanding of the local community and its needs. It is about the extent to which power and information is shared and different perspectives brought into the decision-making, and oversight, process;
- The state of member oversight through scrutiny and audit committees. This is about scrutiny by councillors, and supervision and accountability overall.
In order to help we have produced some positive and negative behaviours associated with the above characteristics, which you can find here – https://www.cfgs.org.uk/behaviours-associated-with-the-seven-characteristics/
You can find more information about the framework and its uses here – https://www.cfgs.org.uk/our-governance-risk-and-resilience-framework/
When you’ve thought about your own council, and how you think it stacks up against some of these issues, we’d be keen for you to report your thoughts to us – anonymously if necessary. We’ll use some of the insight from this feedback to further refine the framework.
If you think your council would like some help to use the framework more strategically – for example, to use its principles as the basis for a broader governance review, as we have been doing with a couple of other councils – please let us know.
Please direct any comments or queries to Ed Hammond at email@example.com