“The top three reasons that local government scrutiny is felt to lack impact are a perception that it exists to rubber-stamp cabinet decisions, fails to address pressing issues and ignores the public.
Those findings have come from the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS)’s 2017 perceptions survey.
This also found that overall confidence in scrutiny’s ability to make an impact was down by 8.5% on the 2016 survey.
The greatest constraints on successful scrutiny were under resourcing, cited by 53% of respondents, internal culture, mentioned by 41%, and lack of skills (15%).
Responses showed that 74% of people thought party politics affected scrutiny, though 76% thought scrutiny’s role was understood.
Two factors found to be common in successful scrutiny operations were focusing on priorities and fostering a culture where challenge is valued.
The more positive this culture the more scrutiny was valued although 39% of respondents felt cabinet members were broadly negative about the role of scrutinisers.
Scrutiny was imposed on all but the smallest councils as part of the reforms of the Local Government Act 2000, which introduced the cabinet system.
The Communities and Local Government select committee had, before the general election was called, launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of scrutiny in councils.
CfPS is an independent charity that seeks to promote the use of scrutiny in public services.”