Scrutiny: the new assurance? A Good Governance Institute discussion paper

Posted on 12/09/2017 by Tim Gilling.

Today, people who make decisions about public services face a common challenge: how to spend taxpayers’ money effectively and efficiently in ways that meet society’s needs and ensure the best outcomes for people and communities. There is much to celebrate, great strides have been made. But significant challenges remain – and it is clear no single organisation or sector has the answer. It is increasingly common for public agencies to act together to plan and deliver services. How they do this varies across the UK, but fundamental principles of good governance, assurance and scrutiny remain constant. Despite differences in culture and language, developing a shared understanding of values and behaviours that can support relationships across organisational, geographic and professional boundaries is essential.

The Centre for Governance and Scrutiny and the Good Governance Institute have collaborated on a new guide, Scrutiny: the new assurance? A good governance discussion document, for people involved in various multi-agency boards and partnerships – for example, Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships in England; Integrated Joint Boards in Scotland; and Public Service Boards in Wales. The guide explains why good governance across and between organisations is now more important than ever and goes on to explore how assurance and scrutiny can be effective in a complex and potentially volatile environment. Recognising that there are several ways in which assurance and scrutiny operate, the guide identifies potential barriers and suggests possible solutions. 

A key part of the document is a ‘maturity’ matrix that identifies several important elements of governance, along with indicators of progress, that people can use to check their effectiveness. These are things, often seen as the ‘boring but important’ things, that help services run well – activities that need respect and investment to prevent progress being derailed. But it’s not just decision-makers that will find the guide valuable. People with an assurance and scrutiny role will also appreciate a ‘scrutiny etiquette card’ to help guide accountability relationships.

With austerity set to continue and with rising expectations on public service leaders, CfGS and GGI can help you use the maturity matrix and etiquette card to build relationships in your partnership or board. For more details about how we can help, contact us at

You may also be interested in the Good Governance Institute’s Festival of Governance which starts next week. A series of , events, workshops and lectures across the UK and internationally examining the importance of good governance. Click on the banner below for more information.


About the Author: Tim Gilling

Tim is a Director at the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny, leads on health and social care and oversees our work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.