Heather Jameson 07 March 2023

LGA to beef up council oversight amid Oflog fears

LGA to beef up council oversight amid Oflog fears image

The Local Government Association (LGA) today revealed plans to beef up its oversight of councils in an effort to stave off Government interference. 

In a report to its board, the LGA vowed to reshape its improvement and assurance offers, splitting the two into separate functions, with a stronger peer review process.

There are also plans to design a new improvement and assurance framework, including financial oversight of councils.

The report read: ‘Whilst there are many checks and balances that are in place… none of this is brought together in one place for councils to understand and be clear they are sighted on it.’

It comes as ministers flesh out plans for their new Office for Local Government (Oflog) watchdog, which has been met with scepticism from the sector.

The LGA said it would work with the sector, professional bodies and Oflog on its plans which will, in part, aim to catch failing authorities before they collapse.

Chair of the LGA’s improvement and innovation board, Abi Brown, said the current ‘checks and balances’ – particularly current arrangements for external audit – were not effective enough.

She said: ‘It’s important that any subsequent sector support and assurance framework should be led and owned by the sector.’

LGA chairman James Jamieson said: ‘The peer review process has been very good at transparency and helping councils improve but… a more robust process is needed.’

Chief executive of the LGA, Mark Lloyd, added: ‘The LGA is not trying to position itself as head office for local government.’

He claimed partners, including council chief executives, recognised the need for a ‘well-developed assurance framework, bringing all the different parts together’, adding: ‘We’ve not prejudged what that will look like.’

The association launched its plans in response to its own peer review, which gave a raft of recommendations in addition to beefing up its improvement offer, including working more closely with combined authorities and strengthening the LGA’s senior management capacity.

Peers also called for more training for members involved in lobbying to help them convey points in a ‘succinct and disciplined way’.

Lead peer for the review, London Councils’ chief executive Ali Griffin, said: ‘Overall, we found that the LGA is a strong organisation, which is in a good position to respond to our recommendations.

‘The recommendations are designed to encourage continuous improvement and ensure the LGA is in a position to support and advocate for the sector and its future.’

This article was originally published by The MJ (£).

The new watchdog Oflog indicates the Government’s belief that it can’t quite trust the Local Government Association peer review process, says Heather Jameson.

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