“MPs launch inquiry into overview and scrutiny in local government”

“The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee has launched a “long-overdue” inquiry into overview and scrutiny in local government.

The committee said it would “consider whether overview and scrutiny arrangements in England are working effectively and whether local communities are able to contribute to and monitor the work of their councils”.

Written evidence is invited on:

Whether scrutiny committees in local authorities in England are effective in holding decision-makers to account
The extent to which scrutiny committees operate with political impartiality and independence from executives
Whether scrutiny officers are independent of and separate from those being scrutinised
How chairs and members are selected
Whether powers to summon witnesses are adequate
The potential for local authority scrutiny to act as a voice for local service users
How topics for scrutiny are selected
The support given to the scrutiny function by political leaders and senior officers, including the resources allocated (for example whether there is a designated officer team)
What use is made of specialist external advisers
The effectiveness and importance of local authority scrutiny of external organisations
The role of scrutiny in devolution deals and the scrutiny models used in combined authorities
Examples where scrutiny has worked well and not so well

The deadline for written submissions is Friday 10 March 2017.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee, said: “This inquiry is long overdue. Local authority executives have more powers than ever before but there has not been any review about how effectively the current overview and scrutiny arrangements are working since they were introduced in 2000.

“Local authorities have a considerable degree of discretion when it comes to overview and scrutiny. We will examine these arrangements and consider what changes may be needed to ensure decision-makers in councils and local services are better held to account.”

Overview and scrutiny arrangements were introduced by the Local Government Act in 2000 as a counterweight to increasing decision-making powers of Leaders and Cabinets or directly elected mayors.

The committee said that shortcomings had been exposed, however, following a number of high profile cases, including child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, poor care and high mortality rates at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and governance failings in Tower Hamlets.

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