Notes for meetup #18: Advice, training and development: Supporting scrutiny councillors to succeed
Wednesday 14th July 🇫🇷 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?
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
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
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?
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 💃🕺
At this meetup we used two activities to help us think about this issue; appreciative interviews and conversation cafe.
Her are all the lovely ideas we collected in the chat. Hope there is something useful here for you 🙏
What’s something that helps to support digital engagement with scrutiny?
being allowed to hold scrutiny meetings virtually (but livestreamed)
making information easy to access
Clear understanding of a meeting’s purpose
cooperation of all parties, members, officers and members of the public
members who are willing to embrace technology
IT literate councillors
Comms team engagement
Need buy-in from Comms to support digital engagement with the public.
The organisational culture needs to be open to use of digital
Iterative sessions leading to the actual meeting. Timed slot when people know how long they have and point of their input clarity of what input will inform
Public-I has worked really well and supports virtual and hybrid meetings.
Proper IT Support
Having courage to cast aside the fears and doubts about whether new approaches are too complicated or time consuming
knowing what and how to do it
Scrutiny needs more support from Senior Leadership and the corporate communications function/team to enable it to effectively engage digitally with the public
Sufficient resourcing for staffing of scrutiny meetings
Explore new ways to run mtgs, having guests there for their bit and then can monitor the rest of it
Its easier to invovle people
Member support for the technology
Good member training / development
member engagement and good IT support
IT support at meetings – including ability to go onto computers remotely to troubleshoot problems.
Coms and ICT support… and knowledge of what is available in the way of digital engagement
having cooperation from board, management and panels all on level playing field
Member being able to use technology
Good planning and preparation including using a procedure at the start of digital meetings.
Enough resources to do it properly
understand the technology available and where it can best be used
A decent level of faith in the community that public points of digital communication won’t be immediately or overly abused – you might get some, but not as much as you think (don’t be a cynic)
Thorough briefing of all Officers involved
People can take part from the comfort of their own homes
explore digital development along with experts IT
Relevant scrutiny topic choices by members
Preparation before it’s needed
digitally engaged and literate members
IT support for members
Pre-meetings before actual meetings
The right technology and well trained members to maximise the use of the tools available
Iterative sessions with residents who want to engage leading up to a bigger mtg
engagement from IT, Councillors and the Council team as a whole. You need to have everyone on board.
What’s a practical takeaway, however small, from today’s discussions that you might take back to your scrutiny work?
public involvement is essential
Introducing Webinars to our scrutiny work
Trying to see how we can use social media effectively.
webinars to tie into meetings so meetings are qualitative and focused
Think about how we can improve online meetings so they don’t just reflect meetings previously held in the Chamber e.g. use of breakout rooms.
Continue task groups remotely (and during the day) to aid engagement by members and (often time poor) witnesses.
a (seemingly national) consensus among scrutiny members that we cannot afford to lose what we’ve gained in terms of guests being able to dial in remotely, use up less of their time…. engagement is easier and more attractive than ever, can’t lose it
It is often easier to promote digital engagement with informal events than formal meetings
Rather than just move a traditional round table physical meeting onto a virtual setting try changing the way task and finish meetings take place by using some of the digital tools that are available in a virtual meeting as we have been today (e.g. white boards and chat falls)
Digital forms good but how do you promote them, circulate them. Examine Public i for hybrid mtgs.
use all methods available
Ensuring we build on the advantages of the last 18 months.
Clarifying how and when we use digital approaches and when in person is better.
Needs discussing with councillors
Webinars useful for information sharing to filter what information goes to each meeting – helps prepare all
Keep up the paperless office after people return to Offices.
Other options for sharing information outside of scrutiny meetings.
listen to everyone and communicate effectively
Use the technology to the full, not just to replicate formal meetings online.
more impetus to push for corporate comms to support scrutiny
keep plugging away at the benefits of digital and use of informal online meetings for gathering evidence
Use of digital meetings more generally, not just for official scrutiny meetings… just a terrible resource to utilise less than we are.
Build on what we have digitally as well as person to person meetings.
High profile officers to continue to give evidence digitally at meetings post 21 June.
Seeing how scrutiny work can better fit around the work commitments of Members
looking at public i hybrid
Asking senior mgrs. who are invited to a scrutiny mtg to monitor the rest of the virtual mtg rather than disappear after their item. This works for daytime but not as much for evening mtgs
Ask chief officers to monitor the meeting after they have presented in case they need to respond to something in another item – better use of their time
Having pre-meetings at least a week in advance of scrutiny meeting
Meetings more focussed aiding better focussed outcomes and forward direction of actions
looking at developing a digital comms strategy for scrutiny
make sure your computer systems up to date and web pages are easy to access and understand by all
Need to keep pushing hybrid agenda…cannot lose what was gained with digital meetings in the last 18 months.
for all participants to remember they are being recorded.
Twitter isn’t a scary place for something as normally non- controversial as scrutiny…
working with Comms and Local Democracy Reporter to promote meeting videos and the role of the local councillor in raising issues
Talk to comms about promoting scrutiny work.
Iterative sessions with contributors on contentious items in advance of the full meeting. Helps take heat out, allows more to feel they’re being listened to. Makes them focus, choose a spokesperson.
Good internet and tech – ‘invest’ in digital media and know how to use it
using recordings of meetings to help members reflect on their performance as part of their training and development
Having pre-meetings remotely a few days before the meeting to allow members to think about possible lines of enquiry and questions
egs of other councils that are making the practicalities of hybrid meetings work
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 café 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
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 café research!
Engaging others and councillors more. Looking at items as a journey
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
We thoroughly enjoyed our annual report themed meetup and thank you to the 50 participants. Special thank yous of course to the three fishes who took part in the excellent fishbowl conversation; Catherine, Camilla and Julia.
Please watch the video and check out the poll results and notes. Plenty to give you inspiration for your next annual report!
We ran a few polls just to give an idea of where everyone is.
Here are the notes from the chat. First the questions and comments for the fishes following a round of breakout groups, second the final takeaways (we usually have a takeaway on a Friday night, mmmm).
Questions and comments for the fishbowl
The issue of time lag between action and outcome
Do you include the Key Decisions in your annual report?
How well do you collaborate with IT and Comms team?
how do you ensure the annual report is member led and influenced by us?
how would you use social media?
How do you evaluate the value of scrutiny meaningfully to report it in the Annual Plan?
Can you get away with a video only report?
Scrutiny is sometimes held to a higher standard of accountability in terms of outcomes and expectations compared to the executive for example some recommendations may take more than a year to implement and have an impact – how can this be overcome?
What information – if any – is essential to include in the annual scrutiny report?
From our group: Inspired by the way other authorities promote scrutiny, love the idea of a video/using newsletters/ Any other great ideas?
How can you overcome the annual report becoming just part of a process and make it more effective.
How have you managed any corporate resistance to your change in approach?
Absolutely agree around the impact oriented – refined report style. We’ve worked really hard over the last two years to make this happen and we’re pleased with the reports produced recently. New accessibility requirements cause difficulties though. How do we make our reports both accessible and impactful/attractive?
How to challenge the culture where scrutiny value is not accepted
Comms have basically told us because there is minimal engagement with the invites to the committee meetings they’re stopping doing it and there’s resistance giving scrutiny its own twitter – crazy to see its like that in so many other places, how to we combat this?
It is about trust and motivation of the Chair
We tag all of the Members into our tweets so they can re-tweet them – this increases the traffic – I should say all of the Members on that particular board
We also re-tweet articles that pick up scrutiny issues
how to show impact of scrutiny at a time when it is struggle to get attention? – balance between impact and a lasting effect for scrutiny
We talked about the need to make this a virtual report – links and videos are a great tool
What’s your biggest takeaway? What are you gonna do with your annual report?
Get comms onside with scrutiny to help with getting the message across of the benefit of scrutiny.
Make annual report shorter and more accessible – involve comms
Keep it relevant.
To aim to work toward a shorter more punchy and meaningful Annual report based on today’s discussions
This year has already been so different for all of us – so lets be brave and make this the year when we go big on making our annual report have impact!!
Look into possibility of video presentation to bring to life – we already have good links with Comms team who tweet most of our live streamed meetings
Importance of singing about the impact of scrutiny and the challenge of finding the right stage to do it
I will try to be more creative learning from others such as Devon, consider videos etc.
We should use the report short and virtual to celebrate scrutiny successes and use the voice of scrutiny members to promote it
That we can cover more than just the previous year – consider a newsletter approach rather than a board by board report. Using an exceptional year to make changes
Thinking about video and social media as ways of driving engagement. How do I make the report go viral!?
Member engagement key as it should be their report. Use all forms of media.
The question of “If it hadn’t been for Scrutiny, what would have happened?”
Be brave – shout about scrutiny!
Look at a different way of producing it.
Loving the group support – keep pushing for innovation!
I really like the idea of incorporating video into future annual reports, and making better use of comms and social media.
Using different methods such as video for a report. Keep it short, thinking of the audience and help measure success of the team and work of scrutiny.
Keep fighting! Get comms on board and focus on evidencing impact and value added through scrutiny – culture is crucial.
Promote scrutiny more – videos, use of newsletters get a good working relationship with comms.
Give more consideration to the audience of the report.
Short, pithy report demonstrating relevance of scrutiny.
Use of social media to increase the reach of the annual report
Political/Corporate buy-in of scrutiny is important!
Getting those stories or Scrutiny’s impact from others across the organisation, video option is very interesting.
This meetup on 19th January was Open Space so participants got to pick the topics and choose which breakout rooms they went to. It’s actually a very nice way to see what scrutineers are thinking about right now.
We had lots of fun before the meeting talking about tic doc memes (yes, yes we did). We found out which councils represent the ‘four lads’ and wondered how we might incorporate sea shanties into scrutiny. Also we pondered whether standing orders would cover councillors having cats on their laps ‘Blofeld style’ when we return to physical meetings.
There were also very helpful conversations about scrutiny stuff. Here are some of the useful points from the different break out rooms that participants shared in the chat:
Good practice exchange
Budget simulator for public engagement!
Get comms to ‘sell’ scrutiny
Minutes styles changing due to recordings of meetings.Role of Cabinet Members, some Council’s have the Cabinet Member always introduce the report, with Officers only answering questions on technical points.Leader of the Council’s attendance at Scrutiny meetings was discussed.At one Council they attendded all the meetings.
Public engagement in scrutiny is varied across the country.
Some areas are good at sharing best practice through regional networks
Work out what comms policy is for supporting committee chairs as well as cabinet members
Hybrid meetings will be tricky – in some remote meetings, councillors are not using video or are only using video when they wish to speak. Different to physical meetings as probably shorter.
Public-i have a video of how hybrid meetings can work in practice.
I was interested inthe different formats people are using to run meetings: some both camera on and mic, others audio only and the fact that access to recordings was so different with some deleting the content quite quickly
Interesting to hear about whether councils keep the recordings of meetings on YouTube.
Many are in favour of remote meetings continuing because speakers and cllrs are more relaxed in their own homes
Remote meetings are the future and should carry on after the pandemic.
Calling meetings “evidence gathering sessions” to keep monitoring officers happy when relaxing formalities to promote engagement by public
Everyone does it differently. Lack of guidance for authorities on how to involve with residents and scrutiny.
Importance of making meetings more accessible to members of the public, especially for young people.
Interesting that other councils use their comms teams to promote meetings.
Ongoing email engagement with community groups and read out their statements at scrutiny meetings.
Very little public engagement or social media for scrutiny or other meetings. Only one involved comms in their meetings out of 9 councils. More guidance needed from central govt? Obviously more engagement if a contentious issue.
Scrutiny during covid
Some chairs have been much more understanding than others. Scrutiny has continued but with some adjustments. Should officer workloads be taken into account? Why are bin collections so emotive?!
Some Members are not sympathetic to the pressures of officers during lockdown.
Dentistry scrutiny approaches! how to ask good open ended questions! resources to help folks understand commissioning provider split
Good Question to ask is, about challenges for Integrated Care Partnerships, to get them to open up.
In terms of Health Scrutiny ought to look at dentistry services. Organisations involved are keen to engage. Something to consider doing at a JHOSC level potentially.
At this scrutinymeetup we did two things – an informal review to help us plan ahead and a longer activity looking at the strengths we might associate with the perfect scrutiny officer.
Also we had a tenuous robot theme for some reason or other.
Review of the meetups
Here are people’s thoughts on the meetups that they put in the chat:
What’s something you like about the meetups?
Hearing how others LAs are approaching the same challenges
Being able to speak in a non-judgemental space with knowledgeable people
Meeting new people (I’m new to this)
Networking, gaining context, hearing experiences from other types of authorities, meeting new people
being able to participate across the country easily
getting ideas from people to help me solve problems I’ve got!
opportunity to meet scrutiny officers from around the country
being able to meet up with officers in such a supportive and safe atmosphere!
Networking and chatting to other scrutiny officers. Also your humour!
It’s somewhere to find ideas for better scrutiny!
Networking, information sharing
Good chance to hear from others about good practice, but also reassurance that nowhere has the perfect set up – everyone has their own quirks to deal with!
a few things:meeting folk from other authorities, hearing their experiences, and how they practice scrutiny at mo
General chats and social
Chatting with colleagues from other authorities and getting a sense of how things work elsewhere
learning from others in breakout rooms
Being able to learn from others
meeting with officers and councillors from different areas to explore issues and ideas
They interactive and cooperative
What’s something you might change?
perhaps some active learning sessions?taking one issue and all having a go at it…
slightly longer time in the breakout, more councillors involved might be interesting
Earlier meetings possibly?
More fish bowl speakers. More speakers.
you’ve done it now for 2021…different days and times!
Struggled with this, I really like them as they are…
The time (clash with school run)
Haven’t been able to attend others; so probably the time of day. morning maybe less disruptive to daily schedule
days of the week and times. thanks for planning a morning one
Don’t know as this is my first one!
Times, in person in the future once a year.
allow self led breakouts
I really liked the opportunity to go between groups with different topics that we could choose ourselves – would like to see this again
What might be a good topic for a future meetup?
Public engagement / How to engage the community in a meaningful way
developing resident engagement with scrutiny and using that to develop the work programme
scrutiny and new governance arrangements in Health / health scrutiny
what does effective work programming look like (2)
what training do other authorities provide for councillors?
Dealing with the relationship between members, Executive and Senior officers
scrutiny of the budget
Making use of performance data, business intelligence, and using it inform priorities and policy
having got to a good virtual operating level, how you use it for next level facilitating even more effective scrutiny – its beengood
How Paw Patrol is a metaphor for Scrutiny!
Share what are the best bits and worst bits of your scrutiny function?
covid-19 – the local perspective
Design your perfect scrutiny officer
We invited participants, in small groups, to think about the strengths required for the perfect scrutiny officer and who they might associate these strengths with (partly for descriptive power and partly, well, for fun).
We asked groups to limit themselves to five each. Some of the groups themed all five of their answers (interesting!) so we had Friends, the West Wing and Harry Potter, for example. (Organised like Hermione Granger, the Eye for Detail of Filch the Caretaker, Tenacious -like Professor McGonagal, the Political Nous of Dumbledore and the Curiosity of Harry Potter)
Here are some of the final list of ‘if you could choose just one’ that were left in the chat. Ready to include these in your person specs, annual appraisals and development plans everyone?
The political nous of Dumbledore! (4)
The skill of efficient, thoughtful and robust pursuit of truth.. of Poirot
The good personal qualities of Marcus Rashford
The happiness and resilience of Rachel from Friends
The Investigative Strength of Coleen Rooney/Wagatha Christie
The communication of CJ Cregg of the West Wing
The communications of Rachel from Friends
The strategic and analytical thinking of Data from Star Trek
This meetup was all about how to demonstrate the effectiveness of scrutiny. We tried a new liberating structure called Triz. And we tried using Google Jamboards for the group work for the first time. Both worked really well. Hooray!
We also had a tenuous disaster movie theme. Matt likes to call Triz ‘Twister’, so that kinda works. (As do the ‘biggest scrutiny disasters’ above.)
In the main activity, using Triz, we honed in on the things we are currently doing that prevent us from demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny by asking the following question:
What are the practical ways you and your team could ensure that Scrutiny’s successes go completely unnoticed by local residents and the rest of your organisation?
At the end of the process we identified some of the small things we might do that could start to make a big difference.
Here is the full list of ideas:
Do a short video about what scrutiny is and how it works. Would be really helpful if the CfGS could do this and make it available for sharing on their website
Speak to Comms team about where they think residents could engage better and see if scrutiny can be part of that
Make sure officers across the Council understand what scrutiny is or how Council’s work and the different roles elected members have e.g. Cabinet/backbench
publicising Scrutiny more the public and to the Council – members and officers (ie over and above the stat min)
issue a Scrutiny bulletin on a regular basis – on the website, and other useful (stakeholder) links/sites – tracking O&S Work Plan
invite Press to spend time at offices to be taught about Scrutiny function – Officer led
train Members on Scrutiny function – operate a league table for them to compete attendance/competence (think brownie badges)
general training – We don’t know what we don’t know – Johari – Member Skills Review sessions. If nec, within their Political Groups (saves embarrassment and publicly competing egos)
evaluate Decision-Making Risk , eg assumptions that we know what we don’t know!!!
Adapt to how residents want to engage. Don’t insist on particular processes
Understanding of the situation: let officers get on with the ‘doing’ before scrutinising. Unprecedented situation.
Turn processes virtual. The council office isn’t open for good reason.
Promote virtual processes, meetings etc.
Get language and materials sense checked by people in the organisation with the skill set to do so – and good neighbourhood community connectors with those skills too
Give a presentation to managers on how scrutiny could help them and possibly create a feature on the intranet for all staff
Set up meeting with senior managers and leader to discuss scrutiny’s role
Provide regular update reports
Talk to the comms team about social media posts to explain / promote scrutiny
And here are the favourite ideas identified by the participants.
Creating a video about what scrutiny is/does
Talk to the comms team about explaining / promoting scrutiny to residents
Evaluate decision-making risks by asking Members to grade aspects
An easy method of getting all officers in the Council to understand what scrutiny is and how it fits into governance – this is resource intensive so would be useful If CfGS could produce this information or have
easily available explainers on their website, like a very basic ‘what is scrutiny?’ etc we could direct members to
Get language in reports sensed checked – not just for plain english but for relevance to communities
Fully engage comms at the beginning/end of the scrutiny review.
Adapt to how citizens want to engage
Publicizing scrutiny work – press releases
Put in place and promote virtual meetings, processes. you can’t pass a note across the table, just say it and be open
We asked participants ‘What was made possible?’ by this approach:
This was a good approach. Using the jam boards was helpful.
More objective and granular thought process
Promotes a different way of thinking and more creative solutions
Good to understand that we all have the same problems and challenges
Thinking backwards made us more creative
Thinking in a different way – approaching a problem from another angle
It was fun!
Good way to just flip the opposite of your suggestion. It can be easier to think of the negative and what doesn’t work as a starting point.
Anti approach helped clarify how to remedy issues
We hen did a quick exercise to draw out some of the things that people are doing well already…
What helps to demonstrate the effectiveness of scrutiny work?
No. of scrutiny referrals to Cabinet (the more the better)
Report annually to Full Council which is a public meeting about what scrutiny has done
Robust scrutiny recommendations that led to change
An annual report.
Present the annual report in a more engaging way (e.g. Microsoft Sway report)
This meetup had a Star Trek theme because, you know, Star Trek. We did three, loosely connected, activities to help participants work through the issues (instructions here) and here are the points they shared in the chat.
Hope it’s useful.
What’s something your organisation has done virtually that has impressed you?
We held a virtual conference for 100 people including members of the public
Just moving to online meetings is a massive achievement
Mayor making ensuring Mayor has his gowns, chains and virtual background of the chamber and signed declaration book on line
Picture of Bracknell’s Council Chamber as background for all Councillors to use at live events
It’s been great to see how we have moved to online meetings and had meaningful engagement from residents!
Embracing virtual meetings so quickly, and the accessibility it brings – aside from tech constraints!
Much better attendance (less apologies/subs) at committee meetings
How well the organisation coped with the move to remote meetings in such a short space of time.
Got our virtual meetings up and running from April, Scrutiny meetings started in May.
Ask me anything Yammer sessions with our Director of Public Health for all staff to ask any questions about COVID
Councils that have managed the ‘virtual transition’ with no dedicated IT support or with huge numbers of members!
Virtual meetings in general
Quite simply, our most recent Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee because it was highly political, and would have been challenging in “normality\3 but we got through it…
What has helped to support the successful elements of inquiries / reviews?
Remote meetings mean can bring wider selection of people into inquiry
Short and snappy meetings with a clear scope for each one.
We heard about the importance of external witnesses, both professional and those with lived experience – this was really helpful to put the review in context
Reviews are better than sound…
Hearing from lots of different sources at the start of the investigation to find out what’s happening so the view of council staff, schools, teachers, parents, carers etc. – identified where the issues were and what to focus on.
Members undertaking practical/hands on work is beneficial
Engaging people where they are
Useful to find out what others do
Site visits and good engagement with both Members & stakeholders
Using Scrutiny to bring a creative approach to problem solving
A real issue, officer buy-in, an external event that coincided with a report and recommendations, a passionate and knowledgeable chair
Wide ranging engagement
15% Solutions: What do we have the freedom and resources to do now?
Bring stakeholders together – public, experts, officers and members. Often, they are not aware of each other or the services / activities in the area.
Utilise the (active) Youth Council where youth engagement is required
See what other Councils have done on the topic and see what recommendations they’ve come up with – use this knowledge to check out whether these things are issues locally or whether it’s different things. But at least you’re seeking assurance that those things are in place.
More youth engagement making most of their easy use of social media
Getting more engagement from others outside of the Councils.
Conduct survey/ consultations
Time to better evaluate evidence
Adding feasibility considerations into reports
Co-opt an expert onto group (but might not want to do it for free)
Ask chairman to allocate tasks to members of the group to keep up engagement.
Put on the website somewhere that members of the public can input scrutiny ideas forward – check other council websites for examples of this.