New research suggests transparency and public scrutiny processes over public services are being perceived as “weak” and fail to have impact, something that is “vital”, the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) says.
As the shape of public services and institutions evolve, and in times of economic uncertainty and major changes like Brexit, the responsiveness of local public services will be critical, APSE says.
The research outlines how the role of good governance and scrutiny is critical to public trust and confidence in decision-making. In times of uncertainty and significant change, it is important that decisions are made in a way that is transparent, involves others and holds to account those responsible for implementation, APSE says.
Public scrutiny as it stands, however, is being perceived as “weak” and failing to have an impact, according to new research on behalf of APSE, carried out by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS).
“Scrutiny now needs to be an agile force in local government; adapting to the new models of governance; the challenges of service delivery and increased demand on our public services; and developing an open dialogue with residents and businesses”
Launching the research, lead author Jacqui McKinlay, chief executive of CfPS said: “Public trust is vital to how we operate our local public services. Scrutiny is a vital bridge between local communities and councillors; ensuring residents’ concerns are addressed. Too often when we see public service failings it is because communities have not been given an effective voice. Effective scrutiny must act as the conduit for that voice.”
The report, titled “Accountability and scrutiny: The issues for local government in a changing political environment”, which was launched at the APSE Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 6 September in Oxford, makes a series of recommendations as to how councils could improve scrutiny and accountability particularly in the changing political environment.
Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE said, “With devolution in England, collaboration and reform in Wales, the challenges presented in Northern Ireland by Brexit and the interface with Westminster within Scotland scrutiny at a local level, ensuring accountability and transparency is linked to the big policy agendas has never been more vital.”
He added: “Scrutiny now needs to be an agile force in local government; adapting to the new models of governance; the challenges of service delivery and increased demand on our public services; and developing an open dialogue with residents and businesses. It should not been seen as a bolt-on to democracy, but rather a crucial function within local areas.”
The full report can be viewed on the APSE website.