Concerns raised over scrutiny vacuum

By Dan Peters | 06 July 2020

A charity has expressed worries about councils that are in danger of effectively having no scrutiny function for six months.

The Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) said a number of councils were only just restarting scrutiny or planned to in the next couple of weeks, with a ‘minority’ of local authorities having ‘no firm plans’ to hold scrutiny meetings.

Councils that responded to a survey variously blamed a lack of senior officer capacity to engage while some claimed scrutiny was not ‘business critical’.

A CfPS paper read: ‘The suspension of a key element of the corporate governance framework at a time of crisis feels uniquely dangerous.’

Director of research and campaigns at CfPS, Ed Hammond, told The MJ: ‘I’ve spoken to quite a few members and officers who’ve expressed disquiet about this where they’re experiencing it in their councils.

'We appreciate the demands that this situation is making of councillors but scrutiny can and will pull together with others at the council to act on the crisis - rather than being a brake on action.

‘We continue to be able to provide support to councils in getting things up and running again, particularly where there are worries about scrutiny’s focus.’

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