Taking on The Housing Challenge: A Scrutiny Councillor’s Guide (Blog)

Posted on 28/09/2018 by Susan Vaughan.


This week we are publishing a guide for councillors on the scrutiny of issues relating to housing, supported and funded by the LGA.

The pressures on housing represents one of the major challenges faced by councils. It’s axiomatic that having a safe and secure place to live is fundamental to people’s ability to live productive and healthy lives. However, in many parts of the country, issues around the affordability and availability of housing causes big social problems.

Councils have a number of tools at their disposal to handle these issues. In the guide we have sought to highlight four main areas where councils might act. These are the need for social housing, issues around homelessness, matters raised by major development, regeneration and strategic planning, and the private rented market.

The guide suggests an approach to scrutiny focused on the tenets of “design thinking” – which has a wider application and might be an approach to consider for other topics. Design thinking is a five stage process. It starts with discovery – understanding the issues involved; moves onto prioritisation – which specific issues are worthy of scrutiny; to investigating – carrying out the review itself; to recommending – formulating suggestions for decision-making; and finally to reviewing – evaluating the impact of the work. Overall it will be a familiar approach to many scrutineers, but there are nuances about the design and prioritisation process which we think will help people to scope better.

The guide contains a range of possible questions on key topics and suggestions on the engagement of residents, including social and private rented tenants.

Dr Dave McKenna did the bulk of the drafting for us on this guide. Dave formerly headed up the scrutiny team at Swansea Council and now works freelance. He’s also one of the driving forces behind Notwestminster, the annual democracy unconference held in Huddersfield.

If you have any insights or thoughts you’d like to share, please contact me on 020 7187 7369 or at ed.hammond@cfgs.org.uk