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Crerar Review: final report Briefing no 166 October 07
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Public Service Reform: Scrutiny Review Crerar Review: final report Briefing no 166 October 07

Introduction

The final report from the review of Scotland's scrutiny regimes has now been published. The review, set up by the previous Executive as part of the Efficient Government Plan is known as the Crerar Review. The aim of the review was to improve the way scrutiny bodies operated in regard to public services. UNISON has broadly welcomed the report particularly its focus on cutting the burden of scrutiny on public services and increasing the involvement of users and staff in service improvement. (See briefing 135 on Efficient Government Plan and briefing 159 on interim findings.)

Problems with the current system

The report concludes that:

  • The burden of external scrutiny has grown since devolution much of it as a reaction to events rather than as part of a coordinated plan
  • The costs have increased significantly
  • The system is unnecessarily complex, lack coherence and there is a lack of evidence of impact
  • There is duplication and overlap between scrutiny bodies causing unnecessary burdens on service providers
  • The public voice is not sufficiently represented in external scrutiny
  • Complaint procedures are unnecessarily complex and not fit for purpose

These findings reflect UNISON members' experiences of the current process.


Key Recommendations

The review proposes that there should be a clear agreement on the role of external scrutiny. That role should be one of independent assurance within a wider performance management and reporting framework. This will require much greater leadership and cooperation than at present. The five guiding principles for external scrutiny should be:

  • Public focus
  • Independence
  • Proportionality
  • Transparency
  • Accountability

The priorities for scrutiny should be focused on the interests of users and the public. The report recommends that the government should work with scrutiny organisations and providers and consumer representatives to achieve this. UNISON particularly welcomes the report recommendation that service providers should have the primary responsibility for performance management. There needs to be support for developing robust appropriate performance management and self assessment. This will lead to a reduction in the volume of external scrutiny and the costs and disruption of the current system. UNISON will continue to argue for the voice of staff as both providers and users of services to be heard in the process.

Features of a scrutiny system

The report recommends the following key features.

  • Strategic priorities agreed by Ministers and Parliament, with financial audit as a priority
  • Ministers to agree key core risk criteria
  • Self assessment by providers as the main source of information
  • Consideration about the application of scrutiny should involve two stages: assessment of core risks and appropriate external scrutiny requirements
  • Where scrutiny is needed and there is more than one existing body only one should be asked to do the work and be fully accountable. Creating a new body should not be an option
  • Time frame with a preset sunset clause for each external scrutiny initiative or programme.
  • Cyclical inspection, audit and regulatory programmes only where all other options have been considered and ruled out
  • Existing scrutiny should be removed or scaled back when new scrutiny is introduced
  • Responsibility for decisions to create scrutiny bodies should rest with Ministers, Parliament or the Auditor General. A cabinet level committee should take responsibility within the parliamentary system, with advice from a panel of experts coordinated by the Auditor General
  • Parliament should take a more proactive role in scrutiny to ensure independence from Ministers. This will require adapting existing reporting and governance arrangements

Another key and controversial recommendation is the creation of a single national scrutiny body. During the parliamentary debate on the report this was the issue which raised most concerns. UNISON is sceptical of this proposal.

Complaints handling

The report recommends improved local handling of complaints with the creation of a standard complaints system for public bodies with appeals to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsmen only where the process had not been followed. UNISON supports this move to simplify and speed up the process.

UNISON response

UNISON Scotland broadly welcomes the Crerar Report; it is in line with our calls to cut the burden of scrutiny while increasing the involvement of users, the public and public sector staff. UNISON's submission to the review highlighted the heavy administrative burden of excessive and overlapping scrutiny and review processes which currently divert too much staff time away from actually delivering the service. We would like to see this start immediately, as suggested.

UNISON believes that crucial to this process is the development of appropriate performance measures. These must be sophisticated enough to take into account all relevant factors in service provision. Any targets or key indicators should be designed to improve overall services.

Action for branches

This is clearly an important issue for UNISON. We will need to monitor any changes taking place as we represent members who both deliver and scrutinise public services. Please inform the P and I team of any changes you experience as part of developing new processes. Information should be addressed to Kay Sillars at the P&I Team in UNISON House k.sillars@unison.co.uk.

Contacts list:

Kay Sillars
k.sillars@unison.co.uk

Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team,
14 West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0870 777006
Fax 0141 342 2835

Further info

Scottish Executive Scrutiny review initial papers

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/
PublicServiceReform/IndependentReviewofReg/about

Crerar Review Final report

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/
Doc/82980/0053065.pdf

Briefing 159 Crerar interim report

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/
briefings/crerar.html

Briefing 135 Efficient Government

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/
briefings/efficientgov135.html

 

 

 

 

 

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Further Information

Contacts list:

Kay Sillars
k.sillars@unison.co.uk

Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team,
14 West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0870 777006
Fax 0141 342 2835