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Local government scrutiny is ‘poor Cinderella’ compared to executive function: CfPS

Fewer than a third of 432 scrutiny officers and councillors who responded to a survey by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) agree that there is “parity of esteem between the executive and scrutiny”.

The CfPS warned that while local government scrutiny had never been more important in restoring the public’s trust in democracy, it was “still the poor ‘Cinderella’ compared to the executive function in local authorities”.

Initial results from the survey also revealed that scrutiny officers believed that the majority of scrutiny recommendations in 2018/2019 were accepted by local authorities (82%).

Nearly two thirds (62%) of respondents overall agreed that scrutiny has an impact on the lives of local people.

Speaking at the charity’s annual conference Driving Smarter Scrutiny, Jacqui McKinlay, Chair of the Centre for Public Scrutiny said: “It is no secret that essential trust between the public and our national democratic institutions has splintered in the past few years. The role of scrutiny in publicly holding our local decision-makers to account is critical in building trust amongst residents.

“As the recent Government scrutiny regulations make clear, if scrutiny is to be play an essential role, there must be a council-wide cultural commitment to scrutiny starting from the top. Without executive buy-in and appropriate support to make it work, there is much less chance of scrutiny making an impact and adding value. Scrutiny is increasingly challenging, uncomfortable and potentially politically difficult – but it is an essential component of residents having trust that local democracy is working.

“Scrutiny officers and councillors need the backing of their whole council to be the critical friend that residents need.”