Councils told to embrace benefits of public scrutiny

New guidance has been published aiming to encourage local government to embrace scrutiny of their spending decisions to achieve value for money, improve services and address the public’s concerns.

Developed by the government in consultation with the public sector, the new statutory guidance for local and combined authorities in England stresses the role of their scrutiny committees – made up of councillors – in holding them to account over local decision-making.

The guidance outlines what effective scrutiny looks like and the positives it can bring to local authorities, with key points covering adopting a position of sharing any information asked for by their scrutiny committee, the role of scrutiny committees as constructive ‘critical friends’ with a vital role of amplifying the voices and concerns of the public when councils take important decisions, and the importance of considering whether contracts with companies delivering services should include a requirement to supply information to scrutiny committees.

Rishi Sunak, Minister for Local Government, said: “Scrutiny committees form an integral part of the work of councils in delivering services by acting on behalf of residents to hold councillors and staff to account for the important decisions they make. That is why I have set out new guidance to ensure authorities and residents can reap the benefits of effective scrutiny, by instilling a culture that welcomes challenge.”