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Scrutiny closes the gap between people and power

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Some ballot boxes hadn’t been packed away before George Osborne pressed the button on further decentralisation and devolution.

A follow-up call from Greg Clark for “creativity and radical thinking across local government” was very much welcomed and gives the green light for councils to design solutions based on the needs of their communities. Local solutions informed by the views’ of local people usually work best and must be part of the response to further financial challenges for the sector.

I enjoyed my time working with Greg Clark and feel confident the sector will develop a positive and productive working relationship with the new communities secretary.

Since leaving the civil service I’ve been keen to find ways to fight for the causes I believe in most. I am delighted to take on the role of chair of the Centre for Public Scrutiny. This small independent charity reflects my passionate belief that decision making needs to involve and be responsive to those most affected. CfPS has championed accountability, transparency and involvement in all public services over the past 12 years. 

In local government, this means giving democracy a voice. Scrutiny is one part of the governance system that gives democratically elected members a role in challenging, supporting and getting the voice of their constituents heard. Scrutiny is vital to decision making, whatever form it takes, but I’m not sure it is valued.

It is certainly not a perfect system, but we have excellent examples where it has made a positive difference, and unfortunately we all know what can go wrong, sometimes tragically, when it doesn’t work well.

As the world gets more complex our job is to close the gap between those who are governed and those governing. We need to ensure all our public institutions are effectively scrutinised; the whole system, not just local government.

We need every leader, decision-maker and member of the public to believe that where there is clear accountability – decisions will be better and outcomes improved. We need everyone to get the value of involvement.

CfPS will continue to play its part in supporting the scrutiny system we have today, campaigning for accountability, transparency and involvement in all public services.

We will also be responding to the call for “creativity and radical thinking”; scrutiny must transform to become vital and valued. I look forward to taking a full role in this debate.

Lord Kerslake, chair, Centre for Public Scrutiny




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