Our governance risk and resilience framework

Posted on 19/03/2021 by Ed Hammond.

Last week we, along with our colleagues at Localis, published the governance risk and resilience framework – a set of material designed to assist councillors and officers to understand and act on risks to governance in local areas.

You can find the framework and a range of supporting material at www.cfgs.org.uk/governancerisk.

When we talk about “risks to governance” we don’t mean catastrophic failures or illegal abuses of power. We instead mean those small things – the blurring of roles, the conversations and decisions which don’t seem “quite right”, the little niggles which left unaddressed could become much more serious problems.

Our framework is designed to help people working in local government to understand, identify and tackle these problems where they exist. It is based on the need to anticipate risk rather than to deal with problems when they are fully fledged.

To support you in doing this, we have developed a set of “seven characteristics” which frame some of the positive and negative behaviours relating to governance at a local level.

This set of behaviours are designed to give people a common language to talk about their worries and concerns. Laws and rules around governance are often fairly clear-cut – the cultural and relational aspects much less so. We thought a common language to describe these aspects was necessary to allow people to compare and reflect on their own perspectives on risks to governance.

The material is designed to be used by councils corporately – and to be championed by the principal statutory officers of a council (the chief executive, the chief finance officer and the monitoring officer). But it is also designed to be used by all and any officers and councillors even where such support may be absent. This recognises the sad fact that material like this is least likely to be used by those councils which most need it.

We encourage you to take a look through the material and in particular at the characteristics and behaviours. It’s not meant to be a checklist but a conversation starter. Which of the positive and negative behaviours do you recognise in your own council? Share your conclusions with your peers and colleagues – do they think the same way? What can you do yourself to overcome those problems? If you can’t solve them on your own do you know who to approach, within and beyond the council, to help you?

If you do face challenges on governance and think that improvement is necessary in your own council, we are here to help – whether or not this is something that you’ve gleaned from using the framework. We operate a helpdesk function through which we can assist any councillor or officer to work through these kinds of problems. To get our help, or to find out more about the framework, e-mail info@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.