What is Scrutiny?
In 2000, the government set a programme for reforming and modernising local government, with new ways of working that put their people and communities first. As there is no agreed definition of Scrutiny, it is best to see it as an umbrella term covering a wide range of roles. It seeks to improve services for the local community by undertaking four roles:
Holding the Executive to Account
This involves scrutinising Cabinet decisions, the Cabinet Forward Plan and using Call-In or other mechanisms to comment constructively, or intervene in the decision-making process.
Policy Development & Review
Policy development involves shaping the formulation of key Council policies before implementation. This can take a number of different forms including; proposing new policies and commenting on draft policies and examining which intended policy outcomes have been achieved.
Review of Council Services
To ensure that Council services are achieving both customer satisfaction and value for money, scrutiny is used to review these functions, monitor Council performance and ensure standards are being met. In addition, the Scrutiny Committees have the provision to oversee Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) Improvement Plan; in particular, the monitoring of action plans to review progress.
Scrutiny Committees are not confined to looking only at Council services. They are able to investigate the actions of other companies and organisations whose actions affect South Ribble residents. The government is keen for Scrutiny to develop a strong outward focus, encouraging participation from partners and the public.
How Scrutiny is Effective
Scrutiny must influence others; it does not implement changes or take decisions itself and as such there are certain elements that enhance the effectiveness of Scrutiny:
• Developing an inclusive approach: working to engage all relevant stakeholders, including partners and the public.
• Working in a transparent way, making it clear to all those involved how the process works.
• Demonstrating accountability for the process and outcomes of Scrutiny.
• Being efficient and responding to the needs and aspirations of the community.
• Working in a deliberative way which underpins an evidence-based approach to the work of Scrutiny.
• Demonstrating a non-partisan approach, placing the needs and aspirations of the community above the consideration of party politics.
• Strengthening the democratic process of decision-making, through initiating and improving the quality of debate.
• Demonstrating effective work management, to make sure that Scrutiny activities are timely and have impact.
• Showing positive leadership, to enable Scrutiny Committees to function smoothly.
The Four Principles of Good Public Scrutiny
The Centre for Public Scrutiny has been created to promote the value of scrutiny in modern and effective government. It has set out the four principles of good public scrutiny to be:
Effective Scrutiny should be a ‘critical friend’ to executives, external authorities and agencies.
It should challenge policy development and decision making in a robust, constructive and purposeful way while developing a partnership with external agencies and authorities.
Effective Scrutiny should reflect the voice and concerns of the public and its communities.
It should ensure an ongoing dialogue with the public and diverse communities where the public voice is heard and responded to. It should have open and transparent processes with public access to information.
Effective Scrutiny should take the lead and own the Scrutiny process on behalf of the public.
It should be independent from the executive, legitimated by the council and should have adequate public representation and political balance that is representative of the current political groups involved.
Effective Scrutiny should make an impact on the delivery of public services.
It should promote community well-being and improve the quality of life, providing co-ordinated and strategic reviews of policy and service performance in line with strategic objectives.
More information on the principles of good public scrutiny can be found at www.cfps.org.uk
Last updated: 11 January 2007