Confidence in local government scrutiny falls

CONFIDENCE in local government scrutiny's ability to have an impact has fallen, according to new research.

The annual perceptions survey by the Centre for Public Scrutiny shows confidence has fallen by 8.5% compared with 2016. Rubber stamping of cabinet papers, ignoring the public's voice and failing to address pressing issues are seen as the main reasons scrutiny is not working.

Nearly three-quarters of people (74%) believe party politics affect scrutiny.

Overall, 25% said scrutiny is less effective compared with last year, while 24% said it was more effective. Some 51% said effectiveness was unchanged.

The biggest constraints on successful scrutiny were under-resourcing (53%), internal culture (41%) and lack of skills (15%).

In January, the Communities & Local Government Select Committee launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of council oversight and scrutiny arrangements.

Committee chair Clive Betts said at the time that the inquiry is "long overdue" because there has not been a review of the current scrutiny arrangements since they were introduced in 2000. These arrangements were meant to counterbalance the increasing decision-making powers of leaders and cabinets or elected mayors. However, the committee said shortcomings have been exposed in a number of high-profile cases, including the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham and governance failings in Tower Hamlets.

"Local authorities have a considerable degree of discretion when it comes to overview and scrutiny," Betts said.

"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."