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Virtual meetings, health scrutiny, recovery planning and work planning. Scrutiny zoom notes #5

Here are the notes from scrutiny officers zoom meet-up on 10th June. We used an Open Space format and here are the top tips shared by participants from their various conversations. Thanks everyone!

Virtual meetings

  • appeared to be more interest in our virtual meeting than our normal meeting. Good opportunity to enhance knowledge of what scrutiny is about.
  • IT equipment used by members should be corporate so it can be fully supported. Not 40 members with all different equipment.
  • Different systems produce the same outcome!!
  • ensure everybody involved has plenty of opportunity to familiarise themselves with the technology and meeting etiquette
  • ensure sufficient number of support staff available to aid the efficient running and broadcasting of a meeting
  • Quick learning as we go along …
  • Creating a private WhatsApp group with the Chair during virtual meetings
  • It is interesting that not all authorities have live meetings but put them online afterwards.
  • Learning from experience and adapting approach to virtual meetings as may need to be different to face to face meetings due to video meeting fatigue etc.
  • Members more mindful of live meetings.
  • More public watching virtual meetings than would have attended at the Town Hall.
  • need to ensure additional democratic services support for meetings to deal with technical support.
  • Officer Support during meetings
  • Resource intensive – require other officers to help webcast the meetings.
  • the importance of practice
  • Understand the application you are going to use for your meetings and become an expert before any meetings take place.
  • Practice practice practice.
  • Get team support when holding meetings.
  • Useful to watch online again to capture text for the minutes.
  • Virtual meetings – Different tech being used across UK – Not always the same approaches.
  • Virtual meetings – some Councils needing extra resources to run the meetings virtually. Puts a strain on others.
  • Virtual meetings are very resource intensive
  • Whether the minutes for online meetings should be shorter/different from those for physical meetings at the Town Hall.
  • Never ask for Feedback via email/questionnaire get it from people before they leave the room
  • Retaining the use of virtual meetings for use in the future
  •  Acknowledge extra resources for virtual meetings
  • Trying to get hold of the paid version of Zoom
  •  Virtual meetings preparation is key before formal meetings
  • Continuing to use video meetings for evidence gathering and member briefings

Health scrutiny

  • doing health scrutiny at the right level – local, sub-regional etc. how to decide which level?
  • it’s time to start engaging with NHS partners again
  • remember JHOSCs
  • general concern about NHS transparency
  • Is the focus too much on hospitals and not enough on care in care homes or the community?
  • June 15th deadline for letting NHS England which changes are going to be permeant
  • link into normal health scrutiny workplan in addition to Covid19.
  • Possible need for informal meetings with partners before launching into a formal public meeting.
  • Possible pan-London scrutiny
  • Getting health scrutiny up and running again
  • can individual health scrutiny committees actually look at covid response or does it need to be wider (sub regional)?
  • health scrutiny – challenge on whether the pandemic means they will organise themselves differently in future – and not stop footprints!!

Recovery planning

  • pre-empt politics and guide focus towards service outcomes
  • involve all in the recovery planning phase and the scrutiny of it
  • Getting CEX and senior officer buy-in, Leader and other group leaders support.
  • Scrutiny briefings with the Chair and key officers
  • Scrutiny to look at Recovery Plan
  • Scrutiny to look at recovery plan (as well!)
  • scrutiny to start with recovery plan and drill down from there
  • To drill down on the recovery plan

Work planning

  • ‘Paper criteria’ for work planning
  • all Councils working at different speeds in work planning
  • All future topics will be within the context of Covid
  •  Live virtual meetings (so far) have stifled debate


  • Innovation as ‘bravery to fail’ and creating small changes/innovations that making failing more palatable!
  • draw on techniques like agile programme management and design thinking- don’t believe that the parameters of governance will restrict your ambition to innovate!



What can we usefully learn from Virtual scrutiny meetings so far? Scrutiny zoom notes #3

We had 30 people attending this scrutiny zoom meet up (thanks everyone) and the main activity was a Users Experience Fishbowl looking at early experiences of virtual scrutiny meetings. In the fishbowl we had four officers and one councillor from West Sussex, Redbridge, Devon and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils.

The main learning points from the participants were:

  • That it can be a positive experience
  • Importance of having a trial run
  • Some of the tactics and approaches being used to demonstrate the continued need for scrutiny during this time
  • How virtual meetings are improving culture in meetings
  • It’s like a cake and the outcome depends on getting the right ingredients for your authority 
  • The importance of championing Scrutiny at this time when we are likely to get pushback from officers 
  • Need to get the ingredients in the right order, quantity and quality to get the best virtual meeting cake.
  • Involvement of other SC members in Overview Board/ Committee 
  • The concept of member-led working groups contributing a new angle
  • Scrutiny is here to help and able to support the Covid19 response is a good way of getting support from officers
  • Preparation and reassurance for chairmen.  
  • Just do it. 
  • Trial runs, scripts, and protocols make for good meetings
  • Importance of scrutinising the Covid response, whilst balancing the pressure that those services are already under, and getting management buy-in to do so.
  • Very good to hear from those that have had virtual meetings and especially from Cllr Broadhead as chair of a virtual meeting, very interesting.
  • The need to have a good protocol for virtual meetings
  • Lots of helpful lessons learnt and practical points to support virtual meetings. E.g. trial runs, having clear roles on the day, member training and more!
  • Organisational culture remains key – find a way for scrutiny to assist more than challenge
  • The idea that Scrutiny can help by capturing real time thought and reflection – video diary testimony perhaps – on the response to Covid.  Museums are asking for diaries and memories – perhaps Scrutiny can help curate contributions so that relevant memories are not forgotten or lost.  
  • Identify the issues that resonate for departments and partners.
  • How many people live streamed / watched a meeting! Public interest is high
  • Combining Committees to streamline the process
  • Lots of tips on running the meeting effectively and specially to remind colleagues of how scrutiny can be a positive experience and a way to showcase the good work. And bring much needed transparency on the decisions being made.
  • Everyone is facing the same challenges throughout the UK & we need to keep promoting the importance of scrutiny.
  • New approaches being put in place and made to work quickly. Will be good to hold on to this openness to try new things and also evaluate what of old ways is worth going back to

How might scrutiny add value and support frontline services right now? Scrutiny zoom notes #2

How might scrutiny add value and support frontline services right now?

At the scrutiny officers zoom meet up on 21st April we worked on this question and made the following list.

Thank you so much to the 20 participants from across the country who took part 👏

  • Help to gather feedback on peoples experience of services over the last few weeks
  • Raise awareness of what is going on and service changes
  • Looking at Business Continuity Plans to see how they are being used at the moment.
  • Engage the community on what has worked and what hasn’t in terms of covid response
  • There could be some discrete task and finish work on topics such as refuse collection and disposal, safeguarding and school attendance.
  • Feeding in community insight/on the ground experiences
  • Scrutinising the application of the emergency plan – is it doing what it is supposed to do?
  • Keeping things on track with timings and targets
  • Asking about alternative plans
  • Dissemination of local Covid-19 information via a weekly All Member Briefing.
  • Bringing a degree of transparency to decision-making processes and oversight of decisions, as well as bringing valuable community intelligence on cases
  • Hold council to targets and timelines to help keep on track and avoid any drift
  • Bringing together information on the key activities.
  • Community engagement – what is working and what isn’t working.  Are you getting the food parcels etc. 
  • Role of Public Health as a bridge between LA and health partners
  • Chance for officers to explain how services have had to adapt and how this has been done
  • Drawing on community insights and councillor knowledge
  • Assist in post covid recovery efforts in task and finish groups
  • Look at the processes that are being used and how they could be improved
  • Officer knowledge should be captured in strategies/documents so that information can be passed on to colleagues coming into their service
  • Logging decisions and reasons for those
  • What would have helped us respond to this better/quicker?
  • We also considered the degree to which Scrutiny should not distract and considered renaming it to something that looked more practical – task and finish orientated
  • Be agile and flexible in how scrutiny is structured
  • Local decision making related to Covid-19. e.g. closure of different services that are open elsewhere or the opposite
  • Learning valuable lessons as we go along, not leaving it for a debrief
  • Allow the public to input in to service changes (understand the ned for them)
  • We also looked at how emergency plans had stood up to reality 
  • Ensuring coordination between directorates 
  • Ensuring delegated decisions are also being communicated properly
  • Checking that our safeguarding of children remains strong.  Ensuring care workers are properly equipped. Is the emergency plan working? What about issues arising now? eg flytippin – Covid can’t take over everything.
  •  How to influence/shape the economic recovery.
  •  We looked public health function of LA
  •  Scrutiny to be the mech to circulate information to enable people to understand what is happening during these times.
  •  Help to prioritise services in the future and review comms
  •  Oversight of strategic decisions, especially on budgets being redirected
  •  Assessing the effectiveness of the local emergency response
  •  Vulnerable children kept safe 

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

The Scrutiny Planning Canvas

The scrutiny planning canvas is something that I invite people to work on in groups during courses.  I think it  could also be useful for scrutineers more generally as part of their practice. I’ve had good feedback from those who have used it, so I thought I would share in case you might find it useful.

The idea is that you start with a concern that you want scrutiny to explore and work thought the various questions in order to think through the different aspects of what the work might look like.

A good way to use it is to print it out in A3 (even better laminated!) and, working in a small team, use post it notes to jot down possible answers. The reason for using post its is that the answer to one question can sometimes change the answer to another. Plus it’s easier to use it again.

The canvas is adapted from the Policy Lab Policy Canvas – an excellent resource for helping you to think about a policy issue. You can find it here.

Anyhow – here is the canvas. I hope you find it useful.

scrutiny canvass



Identifying scrutiny topics – 14 helpful questions

Like many other aspects of scrutiny, there is no one size fits all when it comes to identifying topics. Every council will have a different approach and there may even be differences between committees at the same council. Not that this is a bad thing of course. For me what matters is that any process is well thought through and that scrutineers work to improve the way they do this year on year.

Inspired by the very helpful Policy Canvas (from the Policy Lab Open Policy Making Toolkit) here are some questions that you might find useful when thinking about identifying topics.

When selecting topics you might also want to bear in mind the characteristics of a good scrutiny work plan.

Of course mapping and selecting topics is the first stage of a two stage process – the second stage is designing a plan that matches the chosen topics to the right activities in a way that will make the biggest difference. I plan to share something on that soon.

Helpful questions to ask when identifying scrutiny topics

  1. What difference do we hope to make? By selecting the right topics how will scrutiny add value? Who will benefit?
  2. What makes a good scrutiny topic? What are our 3 most important characteristics of a good topic?
  3. What’s the scope? What’s in? What’s out? What can we look at? What can’t we look at?
  4. What resources do we have to help us identify topics? Within the committee? Corporately? Externally? Creative ideas?
  5. How will we decide? How will we filter and prioritise? What tools will we use? Who will make the final decision? Will the public be involved in this process?
  6. Who do we need to advise us? Officer advice? External advice?
  7. Who else should we be asking? How should we be asking them?
  8. What do we know about what the public is concerned about? As councillors? As a council? In partnership?
  9. How do we know what the public is concerned about? What are we doing now? What more could we do?
  10. What are auditors, inspectors and regulators concerned about? What do recent reports say? What have they told us in person?
  11. What are the Council’s main corporate concerns? What are the corporate priorities, issues and risks? What are the budget issues and risks? What are the partnership issues? 
  12. What topics from last year are still relevant? Topics unconsidered? Topics that haven’t been resolved?
  13. How will people know what topics have been selected? How will we communicate to the public? Other councillors? The organisation? Partners?
  14. How will selected topics be reviewed? To make sure they are still the right ones.


By the way – if work planning is something you think I might be able to help you with please drop me a line via my contact page

Photo credit

What does a good scrutiny work plan look like?

What makes for a wonderful scrutiny work plan?

It’s that time of year when scrutiny committees are forming their work plans. While everyone has their own way of doing this I thought it would be helpful to share what I think are the seven characteristics of the most effective ones.

Seven characteristics of a good scrutiny work plan 

  1. Purpose – scrutiny is about making a difference so purpose should run through the work plan like the lettering through a stick of rock.
  2. Simplicity – a work plan is a tool after all and as such it should be easy to use and easy for anyone to see at a glance what’s happening.
  3. Balance – scrutiny is like a Swiss Army Knife and so the work plan should reflect the different ways that scrutiny can make a difference. 
  4. Conversations – the wider the input the better the plan so the public, the cabinet, audit, inspectors, partners and officers should all see their views reflected.
  5. Deliberation – it’s important that scrutiny councillors own and understand their work so the plan should reflect quality debate and discussion. 
  6. Independence – scrutiny should be councillor led and this should be reflected in the work plan – a good plan will look different to the council’s forward plan for example.
  7. Adaptability – plans can fall through and so often they do – so a good plan has room for flexibility and is regularly revisited and updated.

This is my list and I hope it’s helpful – all suggestions welcome of course!


By the way – if work planning is something you think I might be able to help you with please drop me a line via my contact page

Seven ideas for improving scrutiny’s ability to challenge constructively

The power of challenge is one of the seven scrutiny super powers. Scrutiny acts as  an important and constructive check on the decision making process, helping to ensure that final decisions are better.

Here are some ideas to improve the scrutiny power of challenge that others have found helpful.

Already do them all? Have an extra biscuit with your tea – you deserve it.

1. Engage with the forward plan

When it comes to effective challenge, the forward plan is your best friend. Considering the forward plan at every meeting will help you to see what’s coming up and what you might want to look at. Having a knowledgeable officer at these discussions is also helpful as sometimes forward plans are just not detailed enough. Even better, get involved in the design of the forward plan to ensure it’s fit for scrutiny’s purpose.

2. Engage with your cabinet members

As with any aspect of scrutiny, it takes two to dance the scrutiny tango. Regular meetings between the scrutiny chairs and cabinet member are a good way to ensure the the process works for everyone. Talk to the cabinet members about what’s coming up and give them the heads up on the issues scrutiny might be interested in.

3. Create enough time for pre decision scrutiny

Forward planning can provide time for pre-decision scrutiny meetings to convene well in advance of cabinet meetings. This provides time for responses to be properly formulated, discussed with cabinet members and included as separate written reports on cabinet agendas.

4. Present your feedback in person

Whether it’s cabinet or council meetings, it can be helpful to represent the work that scrutiny has done via pre-decison or call in, in person. Not only does this ensure that the right story is being told, but it makes scrutiny’s contribution much more visible than if it is just the cabinet member summing up what they have heard.

5. Consider your call-in decision in closed session

While it’s possible to vote on call-in decisions at the end of the meeting it might be helpful to consider what to do in closed session. Specifically it should give for constructive deliberation and the opportunity to find areas of cross party consensus. This is one of the useful tips in this briefing on call ins from the centre for public scrutiny.

6. Suggest workable alternatives

As with any scrutiny scrutiny work, the aim is make a positive difference. So, be constructive in your feedback and suggest alternatives rather than just present criticisms. Even better, work with the public and others to help ensure your suggestions are well grounded.

7. Review your processes

Every council’s culture and constitution is different so regular reviews can certainly be helpful. Whether it’s pre-decision scrutiny or call-in, processes need to be regularly fine tuned to ensure they are fit for purpose. When was the last time you reviewed yours?

Seven ways to improve the problem solving power of scrutiny

Scrutiny has seven superpowers and one of them is the power of solutions. 

By taking time to explore difficult and challenging issues in depth, scrutiny has the ability to find solutions to the most difficult policy problems and make recommendations that improve the services that matter to people.

And, by putting backbenchers to work on pressing and intractable problems, the council is making use of an often under used resource. What’s not to like?

Typically this work is done through task and finish inquiry and review work – but not always.

Are you thinking about how scrutiny might be even better at solving problems? Well, here are seven ideas to think about.

Already do all seven? Treat yourself to an extra chocolate biscuit with your next cup of tea.

Listen to the people affected

Whether it’s the people affected by a policy or the people using (or wanting to use) a service, nothing helps with finding solutions better than talking to the people at the sharp end. It’s the Atticus Finch principle: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” (or her’s of course). See also participation.

Listen to diverse perspectives

If you want to get some creative tension from your evidence gathering (you do) then talk to people with a range of different perspectives (e.g. cabinet members, officers, partners, voluntary sector, citizens). Also, if they all agree that something is a good idea – well it just might be! (that’s triangulation by the way).

Involve academics

You might just find someone with research expertise, working on the same topic and willing to get involved with scrutiny whether as an evidence giver or, even better, a co-opted member of the committee or group. Remember, academics can help with the questions as much as the answers – so involve them early.

Get out and about

Going on field trips to see what’s happening on the ground and talking to the people affected is great way to get new perspectives and ideas. So, go on, hire a bus and leave the town hall behind  you. The great thing about using task and finish groups, by the way, is flexibility. You can meet anywhere, go anywhere, involve anyone and operate any way you want. This helps to break out of the traditional committee mindset and to reframe.

Learn from other councils

Scrutiny reports from other councils who have looked at the same issue are a great source of information and ideas so why not get online and download them. Even better, speak to the councillors and officers involved. Even better still, invite them to give evidence or go and visit them.

Make time to deliberate

One of the (many) great things about the Kirklees Democracy Commission is that they held meetings specifically to give the commission members time and space to deliberate after the evidence had been collected. So much better than just asking for a report to be produced by someone else don’t you think?

Involve the keen beans

One of the cool things that Swansea Scrutiny does (and there are many) is give any backbench councillor the opportunity to be involved in task and finish work. In this way you have the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable scrutineers looking for solutions.



Six frameworks to help demonstrate the impact of scrutiny

Thinking about how you demonstrate the impact of your scrutiny work? Wondering how you might improve? Well, there are frameworks that can help. This post highlights six.

No doubt there are things you are already doing. Annual reports, updates to council meetings, features in council newspapers, press releases, videos, recommendation trackers are just a few of the ways that scrutineers show that they are making a difference.

This post is for anyone who wants to develop or review their approach. It suggests six solid frameworks that can be used and adapted. Hopefully you will find one that you works for you.

Why demonstrate the impact of scrutiny?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to demonstrate the impact of your scrutiny work. It might be a simple concern to know that you are making a difference. It might be that you want to demonstrate to the wider organisation that scrutiny is worth investment. Or it might be to provide assurance to the public that their concerns and issues are being properly addressed.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to know what exactly you want to achieve. After all, if time and effort is going to be spent then it’s good to know why.

Key questions before you start

Before getting into the frameworks here are three questions I think it’s worth asking to prepare the ground:

1.What works well for us already?

This solution focussed question invites you to notice the things that are already effective for you in your own context. What’s working well that might be developed or expanded? What’s working well in one committee that might be tried in others? Are there good examples of demonstrating impact being used for other aspects of council business?

2.Who are our audience and what do they need?

This design thinking question asks you to think about your final product and who will be using it. Whatever the final product you have in mind, you need to talk to whoever you want to impress and find out what they like and what they don’t.

3.Exactly what question should we be trying to answer?

From a research perspective, it’s always worth spending time to the right question. What aspect of impact do you want to focus on?  What’s a meaningful question for your audience? What’s a manageable question to answer given the resources at hand?

Six frameworks

Frameworks can help you in a number of ways. They can help you organise the work you are doing more coherently, provide you with a clear method, give you inspiration, offer something practical you can adapt or maybe just challenge you to think differently.

The frameworks below help you to think about the three main aspects of demonstrating impact; data collection, analysis and presentation.

So, here are the six frameworks (there will be others out there of course).  I hope you find something useful.

1. Policy impact (Constitution Unit, University College London)

Described as the ‘gold standard’ by those in the know, this report details extensive research into the work of parliamentary select committees over a number of years. Usefully the report details eight aspects of policy influence that might be used as hooks to hang a discussion upon:

  • Direct government acceptance of committee recommendations (discussed above) 
  • Influencing policy debate 
  • Spotlighting issues and altering policy priorities 
  • Brokering in policy disputes 
  • Providing expert evidence 
  • Holding government and outside bodies accountable 
  • Exposure 
  • Generating fear (anticipated reactions)

Selective Influence: The Policy Impact of House of Commons Select Committees, Meg Russell and Meghan Benton, Constitution Unit June 2011 (full report here)

2. Outcomes (Institute of Government)

Anything from the Institute of Government is likely to be excellent in my opinion, and this report on parliamentary scrutiny is no exception. It provides a framework for assessing impact that sets out a series of possible outcomes alongside the questions you might want to ask and the quantitative and qualitative evidence that you might need to demonstrate each.  The outcomes are:

  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Openness
  • Learning
  • Processes
  • Context
  • Democracy

Parliamentary Scrutiny of Government, Hannah White, Institute of Government, (2015) (full report here)

3.  Results scorecard (City and County of Swansea)

I’m very happy to recommend this approach as it was something I was involved in. ☺️  It’s essentially a mix of Results Based Accountability and the Balanced Scorecard approaches.  Scrutiny’s annual report includes  24 indicators mapped against 4 simple questions. There is a narrative for each question and, because this has been done for a numbest of years, changes over time can be analysed. The 4 questions are:

  • How much scrutiny did we do?
  • How well did we do it?
  • How much did scrutiny affect the business of the Council?
  • What were the outcomes of scrutiny?

You can download the annual report for 17/18 here.


4. Return on investment (Centre for Public Scrutiny)

If you a looking for something a little more hard edged, this report from CfPS (a.k.a. the people who know about scrutiny) should be right up your street.  It takes the idea of ‘return on investment’ (essentially a cost – benefit analysis) and applies it to scrutiny work. Calculating the cost of scrutiny work is perhaps the straightforward part. This report will also help you think about the ‘return’ in terms of:

  • The process benefits
  • The outcome changes

Tipping the Scales, Su Turner and Linda Phipps, Centre for Public Scrutiny (2012)

The report is here.

5. Governance (European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies)

This is my favourite governance framework (we all have one don’t we…). Drawing on a substantial review of the literature, this framework sets out five ‘themes’ that between them cover all of the aspects of governance.  This is helpful if you want to show that scrutiny has an impact on the different aspects of good governance across the organisation.  The framework is known as TAPIC for short which stands for:

  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Participation
  • Integrity (things work as they should)
  • Capacity (for policy development)

TAPIC has been published in Strengthening Health System Governance, Greer et al (2016) A shorter summary of the relevant chapter (which is by Greer, Wismar, Figueras and Mckee) can be found here (pdf).

6. Reach and significance (Research Excellence Framework)

This framework comes from the academic world where it has become essential for universities to be able to demonstrate their research impact. It’s not directly scrutiny or governance related but I think this is something that can be adapted.  The key takeaway is that impact can be described in terms of the concepts of reach and significance (breadth and depth if you like) where:

  • Reach = ‘the extent and/or diversity of the beneficiaries of the impact, as relevant to the nature of the impact’.
  • Significance = ‘the degree to which the impact has enabled, enriched, influenced, informed or changed the performance, policies, practices, products, services, understanding, awareness or well-being of the beneficiaries’

Consultation on the draft panel criteria and working methods, REF 2018/02 July 2018 (report here if you want to see it)


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