I went to a training session at City Hall in Westminster this evening about scrutiny. Cllr Gill Sargeant and Cllr Alison Moore were the Barnet Councillors present.
It started with Meg Hillier MP and Caroline Pidgeon AM on what scrutiny is like in Parliament and the London Assembly. Meg Hiller has been a Councillor, an Assembly Member and an MP, so has seen a lot of scrutiny in her time. She is currently a member of the Country's most important scrutiny body, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.
They did an interesting talk, and the theme that developed was that scrutiny can be just as helpful to a political administration as to the opposition. (Perhaps our own might bear it in mind)
We then broke into plenary sessions, and we decided that we would split up so that the three Barnet Councillors would cover the three sessions. Gill went to a session on getting the public involved in scrutiny. It seems that Enfield have some best practise that Barnet could look in to.
Alison did Commissioning, which is really important for us in Barnet. I am glad that other Councils of all political colour seem to accept scrutiny of contracts and services should be something Council scrutiny committees do.
My session was on shared services. These were private discussions, so I won't go into detail, but there were experiences about the tri-borough system being adopted by three councils in West London. I got some good advice from colleagues as well.
It was a very useful evening, and I am glad that many Councils see scrutiny as a positive thing, welcome it, engage with it prosper by it. It seems as though Health has really benefited a lot from the way Councils are scrutinising them. I hope we can take some lessons and apply them to other areas as well.