Accounts Commission headline messages
Below is a summary of the follow-up messages from our two round table discussions held in 2016. Follow the links to the full report, How councils work - Roles and working relationships: are you still getting it right? (PDF 484Kb) for more details.
The messages are structured around the five broad themes in our 2010 report, How councils work - Roles and working relationships: are you getting it right?
The changing local government operating environment
- The local government environment has changed markedly since the time of the 2010 report. Councils face a challenge in adapting to major change such as health and social care integration especially at a time of continued cost and demand pressures. This requires strong leadership and effective governance.
Councillors and officers must be clear on their roles
- Councillors have a crucial role to play in promoting effective corporate governance within the council. Local guidance such as member and officer working protocols or coalition agreements can be helpful to clarify roles and responsibilities.
Scrutiny is an essential part of effective decision-making
- Effective audit, decision-making and scrutiny are essential for councils to operate effectively. The Commission believes that scrutiny is most effective and transparent where the chair of the scrutiny or audit committee is not a member of the political administration. Councils must consider further ways of involving communities in local decision-making and scrutiny.
The governance of partnerships and arm's-length bodies needs to be considered at the outset
- Councils need to carefully consider the governance arrangements for partnerships and arm's-length organisations (ALEOs). Where councillors or officers take roles in ALEOs they must be clear of their responsibilities and have the right mix of skills and experience.
Statutory officers need to have sufficient influence
- Statutory officers have an important part to play in ensuring that the council operates effectively and appropriately. They must have sufficient influence and experience to undertake this important role.
Good conduct and behaviours are crucial
- Good conduct and behaviours are crucial. Culture is set from the top and a positive culture is essential for any organisation to operate effectively. The Commission highlights the benefits of using cross-party groups to help foster good communication and working relationships.
Councillors need the skills and tools to carry out their role
- Councillors need the skills and support to carry out their complex and evolving role. Training should be ongoing and take councillors' background and capability into account. The Commission urges councils to ensure that councillors receive training in the essential areas of scrutiny, audit, and financial decision-making.