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!
- 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
- 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!!
- 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
- ‘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!
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
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