How might we best use video calls to support scrutiny? Scrutiny zoom notes #1

Along with Matt Clack [@m_ttclack] I facilitated a zoom meet up for scrutiny officers on 7th April 2020 – week three of the lockdown.

We described it like this:

This is an informal (and free of course) opportunity to network and share some ideas and good practice around using video calls for scrutiny. Aimed at scrutiny officers – councillors also welcome.

It will be a chance for us all to try out Zoom as a way of working together (and to experience making Zoom calls if you haven’t used it before).

In all 16 attended from right across the country – these are the notes we collected and shared from the meet up.

Thank you so much to everyone who took part and contributed – hope it was useful.

Our Best hopes for the meet up:

  • Find out how scrutiny is going to continue when most officers are redeployed or carrying out essential roles
  • ideas on scrutiny continuing to be relevant
  • To find out what other authorities are doing to arrange scrutiny with the current arrangements.
  • No plans for Scrutiny at the moment, but interested to see what challenges others had faced if they held a meeting so far
  • Share top tips and warts and all!
  • Find out how other authorities are trying or considering starting to reintroduce scrutiny in the Council’s business- how are they starting to re-engage members and senior management?
  • find what software people have tried and what works well or doesn’t work well
  • To find out the approach to holding mtgs and what software people are looking at using
  • hope is to share experiences and what others are planning in terms of meetings going forward.
  • what other people are doing in the way of scrutiny within today’s environment. Hint, tips, thoughts and ideas and learning from others
  • to find out what others doing re: scrutiny and virtual meetings. or what planned
  • sharing experiences, tips and hints on It options, etc, but also how to scrutinise during the health emergency-
  • To get a sense of the national support that we at CFPS can provide – both on remote meetings and no substantively what scrutiny can be doing
  • General sense that scrutiny is not happening – after thought
  • What systems is everyone using – have you tested it yet?
  • also about how to scrutinise effectively in these challenging times

How should we keep in touch?

  • More virtual meetings like this would be useful.
  • Establish forum/more sessions of this nature
  • This works well
  • regular zoom/virtual meetings, emails
  • First time using Zoom, very useful. But we use MS Teams in St Helens, very good for messaging and video calling
  • this has worked well 👍
  • Linkedin
  • virtual sessions
  • I’d be keen to have periodic meetings like this, but we at CFPS are also seeing what we can do to systematically support regional scrutiny networks where they exist
  • connecting so important! more meetings like this please
  • We use MS Teams too – just testing Teams Events
  • Regular zoom network of scrutiny officers (regional if national will be too many)
  • Could use email, linked in forums, more of these sessions
  • NW Employers have a good online portal they use for Scrutiny in the North West
  • who is “we”?

How might we best use video calls to support scrutiny?

  • Great to engage witnesses in select committee style scrutiny
  • Informal working – briefings from officers, task and finish – pre-meetings will be v important
  • Can be more flexible on meeting times
  • more informal joint meetings
  • Networking across wider area – health issues will cut across geographies
  • Need to consider how voting will work
  • where there are 2 or more tiers better access to what the other is up to
  • Chair and Portfolio Holder meetings can be facilitated quite easily through Teams to keep scrutiny up to date
  • Ensure that considerations are taken for the difficulties that this may cause especially for Members who may have disabilities
  • For us at CFPS it’s about using video calls to support sharing and learning (and potentially member training too)
  • engaging a wider audience
  • normal structures can work, but must ensure that the etiquette and trust is there
  • Needs more than one committee support officer usually
  • The environment has now changed, therefore scrutiny can be done differently. Questioning sessions of Cabinet etc
  • Needs member buy-in
  • Is it possible to hear from higher profile leaders in government etc?
  • Questions in advance of meetings
  • One to one catch ups with Chairs. Formal meetings may need more than one officer.
  • informal chair/vc briefings as otherwise these cross-party discussions wont happen
  • chairman needs to be more proactive in managing virtual meetings
  • less rigid meetings – can be more flexible to fit around members and officers – better attendance
  • video good for personal connections, ensuring there are no misunderstandings or interpretations and vital for member/officer contact as members skill sets will vary
  • Lots of good points here, also ensuring that local people can also engage as fully as before
  • It’s great for informal sessions, pre-meetings with Chair/Vice Chair & updates from relevant Director
  • members submitting q’s in advance but allowing supplementary q’s
  • Means of keeping backbenchers informed – crucial
  • joint scrutiny could become easier
  • Ensuring quorum if Members lose access during the meeting
  • short agendas
  • work programme planning with committee members
  • video meetings with chair and vice-chairs of osc, ceo and members of the leadership team to keep up regular contact.
  • non formal meetings at shorter notice – scrutiny Cllr and portfolio holder questions etc
  • Inviting people to take part in scrutiny from across the country
  • local and national network meetings
  • Understand the need for flexibility, but perhaps more structure is needed in order to ensure people don’t talk over each other etc? Questions in advance
  • ensure quorate
  • Need to ensure this doesn’t replace physical meetings forever
  • if member sick or forgets to attend an appeal ot sub committee – can bring another in at short notice virtually – have members on standby at home just in case

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