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New guidance for scrutiny committees

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The government has published new guidance for scrutiny committees and has urged councils to “embrace scrutiny” of their spending decisions.  

Councils are being told by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to share all information asked for by their scrutiny committee, and to consider sharing in a closed session what cannot be disclosed in public.

Scrutiny committees should be “constructive, critical friends”, the guidance states, with “a vital role” of amplifying public voices and concerns when councils take important decisions.

Councils are also being instructed to consider whether contracts with companies delivering services should include a requirement to supply information to scrutiny committees.

Jacqui McKinlay, chief executive of the Centre for Public Scrutiny, said: “We look forward to working closely with our colleagues at the Local Government Association and individual councils to use the new guidance as an excellent opportunity to reflect and review their current approach to scrutiny”.

The guidance follows a roundtable event MHCLG held with the LGA, the Institute for Local Government, Association of Democratic Support Officers, the Committee for Standards in Public Life, Centre for Public Scrutiny, councillors and council scrutiny officers. MHCLG received submissions from more than 30 authorities, organisations and individuals with involvement in conducting, researching and supporting scrutiny.

 However, some council chief executives questioned the ministry’s priorities.

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