A report from the Auditor General for Wales has recommended that Welsh local authorities should implement scrutiny improvement action plans.

The recommendation is one of nine recommendations contained in Good Scrutiny? Good Question!, a report of an Auditor General for Wales improvement study on scrutiny in local government.  The study involved staff from the Wales Audit Office working with local authorities to enable those involved in scrutiny to identify where improvements to their own arrangements may be required and to share knowledge and experience.  The study also developed peer learning and evaluation teams at each local authority.  In November 2013 a conference Scrutiny in the Spotlight: Investing to maximise its impactwas organised and hosted jointly by Cardiff Business School, the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS), the Wales Audit Office, Welsh Government and the Welsh Local Government Association.  The conference explored common themes that emerged from the improvement study and to seek ways of addressing the challenges ahead.

The report of the study concluded that local government scrutiny in Wales is improving but that local authorities need to do more to develop consistently rigorous scrutiny to increase public accountability in decision-making.  The findings were summarised in the report as:

  • Scrutiny practice is improving but the impact that scrutiny is having is not always clearly evident.
  • Whilst a majority of councils consider that there is a supportive environment for scrutiny, some lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities can limit the effectiveness with which scrutiny holds the executive to account.
  • Better planning, more effective chairing, and improvements to the range, quality and use of information are required to improve scrutiny across councils in Wales.
  • In general, council scrutiny is not always fully aligned with other council improvement processes and does not build on external audit, inspection and review.
  • More effective engagement with the public and partners will improve scrutiny and increase public accountability.

The recommendations made in the report were:

Click here to view table.

After the completion of the study, the Wales Scrutiny Officers Network, supported by CfPS, developed an agreed set of outcomes and characteristics for effective local government and scrutiny.  This is included in an appendix to the report.