Tag: Covid-19

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