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Scrutinising Scrutiny

September 19th 2010

Today the Bevan Foundation teams up with the National Assembly Commission, Welsh Local Government Commission, the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action and my company, Positif Politics, to stage a one-day conference on scrutinising political scrutiny.

Don’t switch off. This isn’t a dull topic – promise. We have gathered a range of speakers together to share perspectives on how scrutiny systems do and can work.  The Centre of Public Scrutiny (http://www.cfps.org.uk/) is sending a representative along to today’s event. In providing an overview of the topic, the Centre explains why this topic is so critical to us at this time:

Public scrutiny is an essential part of ensuring that government remains effective and accountable.  Public scrutiny can be defined as the activity by one elected or appointed organisation or office examining and monitoring all or part of the activity of a public sector body with the aim of improving the quality of public services.

Public service reform and improvement is a hugely critical issue at the moment. This makes the event especially timely and we are particularly pleased that Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Local Government and Social Justice, has agreed to speak to the conference about the new Local Government Measure which is currently before the Assembly. The Measure is arguably the most wide-ranging piece of legislation that the Assembly has yet discussed and includes significant powers to enhance the role of non-executive local authority councillors in the scrutiny of local services.

This is sure to be a lively topic while the leader of Cardiff County Council Rodney Berman will also have a perspective to share on behalf of the WLGA. As all will surely agree, the value of scrutiny to the provision of effective local services is critical. As the Centre for Public Scrutiny reflects:

 

Public scrutiny is now moving into another era with community-led scrutiny of local decisions.  This is where the public’s involvement in challenging local authorities and public service providers on public service improvement and delivery is actively sought…

The focus of the day isn’t just confined to local services, though. The aim of the conference is to look at scrutiny in the round and at all levels. The Presiding Officer of the Assembly, Dafydd Elis Thomas, Prof Laura McAllister and leading Assembly Member Andrew Davies will set the scene. Several Assembly Committee Chairs are also participating, alongside David Davies MP, the new chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee. We can expect sprightly contributions too from veteran awkward squad member Paul Flynn MP, who has never let party colours interfere with his scrutiny role.

And with a topic of such importance as scrutiny, objectivity and thoroughness is definitely what’s needed.

Daran Hill is the Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Positif Politics,

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