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 👍
- 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