Author: Dave

Meetup notes: Supporting scrutiny councillors to succeed


Notes for meetup #18: Advice, training and development: Supporting scrutiny councillors to succeed

Wednesday 14th July đŸ‡«đŸ‡·Â 10.00-12.00

To celebrate Bastille Day, we had a French theme – well Dave had some madeleines and Matt did the chatfall countdown en français.

To help participants to generate all of those good ideas we had nine minute networking, spiral journal and a conversation cafe.

In a final chatfall we extracted the final, favourite takeaways and here is the final list. Hope it’s useful 🙏.

What helps scrutiny councillors to succeed?

  • Zoom premeetings
  • Good pre-meeting preparation
  • Site visits – get out in the community and meet real people – missed that during pandemic
  • Effective use of pre-meetings
  • Curiosity, interest in subject matter, willingness to push scrutiny to its limits in adding value
  • Great to discuss this – important discussion around relationships, questioning, support, inspiration – asking the ‘Et alors?’ question (so what?))! impact.
  • Importance of well-planned and well-timed pre-meetings.
  • Opportunity and ability to ask relevant follow-up questions
  • Prepare members in advance of the meeting – pre-meeting to filter and theme questions and to pin the areas that may need to change, what we need to know more about and think about  recommendations could be formed at the meeting.
  •  Preparation in advance of the meeting to plan themes, questions and possible recommendations
  •  Thinking about site visits to support interest in a subject
  •  Importance of preparation and understanding the brief
  •  Ensuring member engagement and addressing the issues that hold them back – training for example
  •  Do less, but do it better – be  more focussed rather than trying to solve everything.
  •  Members to listen to responses at the meeting – for supplementary questions to dig deeper into the issue.
  •  Listening to officers reponses and forming questions based on new information rather than sticking to pre-prepared questions
  •  CuriositĂ©
  •  Supporting the development of relationships between executive, scrutiny, officers and others
  •  Listening well and responding with useful supplementaries
  •  Pre-meetings held in advance to sort out issues beforehand
  •  Thinking of innovative ways of getting members engaged
  •  master class videos with info in advance of scrutiny sessions
  •  Reports should have all the data, quantative
 members need to bring qualitative info and context – at the meeting dig deeper
  •  Training around questioning for members that is focused and to the point. How to follow up the responses to those questions.
  •  Need to think about how best to help members understand the impact of their scrutiny
  •  Working on relationships – and hearing from the edges
  •  Focus on issues
  •  Good quality recommendations as a result of useful questions and answers

Sign up for meetup #18: Advice, training and development: Supporting scrutiny councillors to succeed


Sign up for meetup #18: Advice, training and development: Supporting scrutiny councillors to succeed

Wednesday 14th July đŸ‡«đŸ‡·Â 10.00-12.00

Yes, It’s that time of year, new councillors are being offered induction training, more experienced councillors are being offered refreshers, and development sessions are breaking out all over. So we thought now would be a good time to think about how it’s going and what really helps councillors to be more effective in their scrutiny roles.

We will (probably) be using Triz (also known as the anti problem technique) to help generate some fresh thinking. We’ve used it before and it was a lot of fun. Oh, we will (probably) use google jamboards so you might want to check out the best way to access that beforehand. Here is a test board if you want to see if it works.

We will be doing the usual nine minute networking as well of course.

Hope to see you there đŸ•ș💃

Dave and Matt

 

Meetup notes and video: The secrets of parliamentary scrutiny


Meetup notes: The secrets of parliamentary scrutiny

In this meetup we heard a wonderful fishbowl conversation between three parliamentary clerks:

  • Fay Bowen – Welsh Senedd – Clerk to the Public Accounts Committee and meetup veteran
  • Matthew Congreve – House of Commons – Second Clerk to the Defence Committee
  • Francisca Gale – Tynwald – Parliament of the Isle of Man – Deputy Head of the Chamber and Information Service, Clerk to Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee

They talked about how they help to make their committees ‘sing’, discussed some of their challenges and shared some tips along the way. Then they answered questions from participants and even went into extra time to answer all the questions they missed.

Don’t worry if you missed it because we’ve put the whole thing on Youtube and it’s well worth a watch!

To give you a flavour, here are some of the questions asked by participants and some of their takeaways at the end.

Questions for the fishes

  • Can you give an example of a time you involved stakeholders in the development of TORs and how it went?
  • How long (in hours/days) does it take to produce a brief for Members?
  • Be interested in getting a copy of the commons pack spreadsheet talked about in relation to recommendations.
  • How do you ensure that the enquiry stays on task without stopping useful areas of enquiry?
  • On the ‘silent policy change’ and measuring impact – how you balance demonstrating success/impact to others without embarrassing policymakers by highlighting their “uturns” and thus disincentivising policy changes?
  • When a recommendation is only part of the evidence to inform a decision – how can scrutiny claim it as an outcome and how do you monitor it
  • how do you address lack of engagement?
  • If your members also had another full time job, how would you engage them with your review?
  • How do you encourage Members to ask effective, challenging, follow up questions?
  • How do you support Members to not take the arguments of Cabinet Members/officers at face value/provide an appropriate level of critical challenge?
  • For Fay- the ‘wash up’ sessions -would you invite the whole Committee or would it be a conversation with the Chair?
  • Supplementary questions, how do you organise these?
  • What does a successful meeting look like?
  • How do you make recommendations SMART?

Takeaways

  • Wash up after briefing
  • My top takeaway is the importance of setting the right remit/terms, and that stakeholders can be involved in informing this at an earlier stage.
  • Could we have notes?
  • Rethinking how to brief the Chair/Vice-Chair and other Committee Members
  • How much of the scrutiny direction is governed by you
  • clear aims, objectives and communication between departments, committees, panels
  • I could brief Members a bit better.
  • Getting a clear sense of current levels of interest and knowledge at the start of the review
  • Getting the balance right between making sure members have the resources to be well informed but making sure they take responsibility for this.
  • Going to try the video briefing!!
  • Wash up meetings with all task group members not just officers/chair
  • The same issues are experienced at all levels of public scrutiny
  • Video briefing on the background to a topic in advance of the meeting – so that the meeting is not taken up with scene setting and members can get stuck in to the issues
  • Definitely interested in the video briefing.

Thanks again to our fishes – you did a brilliant job 💃đŸ•ș

Sign up for meetup #17: The secrets of parliamentary scrutiny


ScrutinyMeetup #17: The secrets of parliamentary scrutiny

10.00-12.00, Wednesday 16th June

This topic came top of the poll when we asked participants at the March meetup.

If, like us, you are keen to find out what those officers supporting parliamentary scrutiny do to help their committees sing, then this is the meetup for you.  We have a fishbowl planned including a clerk from the Commons, Welsh Parliament, Jersey and the Isle of Man. What’s not to be excited about?

So, come and be a fly on the wall for a conversation between:

  • Fay Bowen – Welsh Senedd – Clerk to the Public Accounts Committee and meetup veteran
  • Matthew Congreve – House of Commons – Second Clerk to the Defence Committee
  • Katie Griffiths – States of Jersey Assembly – Scrutiny Officer for Corporate Services
  • Francisca Gale – Tynwald – Parliament of the Isle of Man – Deputy Head of the Chamber and Information Service, Clerk to Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee

Oh, and we will have the usual nine minute networking of course.

Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your junk folder!

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to see you there!

Meetup notes: Work planning for the win


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At this meetup we worked on the issues of work planning. We used a liberating structure called What, So What, What Next to work through a conversation in three stages.

Here are the takeaways that we captured from participants in the chat at the end of each stage.

Hope you find them useful!

Something interesting that you heard that others do

  • canvas residents, reviewing consultations
  • It’s all about communication!
  • We discussed whether committees used the first meeting of their year to finalise the work plan or whether this was established beforehand leaving the first meeting to actually scrutinise – there was a mixture of responses
  • Topic suggestions invited from the public via website and social media
  • a scrutiny cafĂ© to discuss work plans
  • Social Media Campaigns
  • Communication with Chairperson/Vice Chairperson/Members/Directors and Heads of Service. openness and transparency of agendas etc
  • Public ideas for topics
  • Looking in local media for matters of local interest to be included in work plans
  • moving away from annual work planning
  • Having a google docs type document to share a draft work plan with members and officers for their input
  • corporate plan
  • Looking at the action tracker to see what’s outstanding
  • Interested to see other council using social media to get ideas from public
  • Speaking with cabinet members

 

What insights did you gain from sharing different work planning activities?

  • Members need to think more critically about whether their ideas for scrutiny items are good enough to make most of resources and time
  • Trying to enable more interaction/discussion at meetings – not just presentations!
  • listen to all members across the administration and opposition
  • Variety of sources for longlist of items for work programme
  • Work programme is a living document and constantly changing
  • increased communication with the public, with residents to inform the FWP.
  • Plan to use different mechanisms for scrutiny in your work programme
  • importance of good chairmanship in making meetings focussed
  • meeting with cabinet members
  • How Task and Finish Group work has continued for some.
  • That officers can talk for too long
.
  • Flexible work programmes to accommodate urgent items as and when needed
  • Need to get Comms support for engaging with public to get suggestions
  • Comms involvement helps shape scrutiny and the public interest.
  • A shift in perspective about drawing insights from councillors
  • Setting up meetings with cabinet members and chairs/vice chairs starts the year in a productive way.

 

Something to do differently as a result of today’s conversation?

  • Virtual planning event with breakout rooms etc
  • speak to comms on what has been high traffic issue on social media recently
  • Use social media to canvass for suggestions for the public and calls for evidence during a specific review
  • looking at local media as well as complaints and consultation feedback as a source for timely and relevant topics
  • Virtual work programme planning with Committee g. use breakout rooms
  • utilise comms / public consultations to gauge better idea of public concerns
  • Liaise with cabinet members and officers more about topics for scrutiny
  • ability to make use of new technology to gather evidence from stakeholders
  • Informal drop-in sessions for people to find out more about scrutiny / suggest topics
  • Look at how we do our social media around scrutiny.
  • Planning the way we carry out the scrutiny – not just the topic
  • start pre-meets with all Members of the Committee for any questions and to inform the line of questioning to encourage pre reading of the agenda and pack.
  • Engage more extensively with Officers to suggest ideas for scrutiny
  • Scrutiny cafĂ© research!
  • Engaging others and councillors more. Looking at items as a journey
  • Themed meetings
  • Seeking to widen the circle of Members who contribute their input to the work planning
  • Possibly a Scrutiny ran social media account separate from Comms?
  • Speak to comms about local issues they have picked up
  • Nurture three-way relations (portfolio holders, Chairs, Exec Directors) from the start

 

Sign up now for scrutinymeetup #15: Work planning for the win đŸ„‡


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ScrutinyMeetup #15: Work planning for the win đŸ„‡

2.00-4.00, Thursday 25th March

This topic came top of the poll when we asked participants at the February meetup. And who doesn’t love a good scrutiny work plan?

We’ll (probably) be running this meetup as a Triz – also known as the ‘anti-problem technique’, it follows the idea that sometimes identifying ways to solve the opposite issue to the current one makes it easier to find a new solution. We’ll explain it all on the day when we promise it will make sense. Well, it worked before when we did it, and we had a lot of fun, so we are confident! Oh, and we will be using Google Jamboard again so do check that out if you haven’t seen it before. (If Jamboard doesn’t work for you, it’s still possible to join in so don’t worry)

And there will be nine minute networking of course. We invite you to spend nine minutes in the company of two random scrutineers in two rounds. We suggest a couple of conversation topics but it’s up to you really.

 

Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your spam folder!

In the mean time, as we will be using Zoom, you might want to sign up / install the app if you can (if you haven’t already) although you can still access through a browser. Details about Zoom here: https://zoom.us

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to se you there!

Dave Mckenna @DrDaveMckenna

Matt Clack @M_ttclack