William Eichler 12 February 2019

Auditors call for Welsh councils to make scrutiny ‘fit for the future’

Auditors in Wales have outlined the six steps that Welsh councils need to take in order to improve overview and scrutiny functions.

The Wales Audit Office has published a discussion paper which brings together common themes and issues identified during audit work across Wales over the last year.

The auditors found that in some of the country’s 22 councils there is ‘fundamental confusion and misunderstanding’ around roles and responsibilities in practice.

They also discovered that many councils still need to improve the way they engage with the public, and they said that improvements are needed to the way councils plan their scrutiny activity.

Most Welsh local authorities do not routinely evaluate the effectiveness of their scrutiny functions, the auditors discovered.

Some councils may need to consider reviewing support and training for scrutiny committee members.

The Wales Audit Office also called on the Welsh government and councils to consider how these themes impact on local governance arrangements role.

In response to these issues, the auditors designed a checklist to help councillors improve overview and scrutiny functions:

1. Know your role.

2. Know your powers and what’s ‘possible’ in scrutiny.

3. Know what you are trying to achieve.

4. Plan your scrutiny work to achieve your aims.

5. Design support arrangements to achieve your aims.

6. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of scrutiny activity and make changes based on feedback.

‘Scrutiny in local government is a vital part of democratic accountability and the public have a right to be assured that decision-makers are being held to account in a proper and effective way,’ said the auditor general for Wales, Adrian Crompton.

‘But there are some common themes that my auditors have identified across Wales that councils could reflect on to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their scrutiny functions.

‘I hope this discussion paper and checklist acts as a helpful guide for councils and councillors as they look to improve their approach.’

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