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Crerar Review Briefing 159 June 2007
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Crerar Review Briefing 159 June 2007

Public Service Reform: Scrutiny Review

Crerar Review


In June 2006 the Scottish Executive set up an Independent Review of Regulation Audit, Inspection and Complaints Handling of Public Services in Scotland. This is part of Transforming Public Services. (See briefing 139) Professor Lorne Crerar is chairing the review. He has previously held the post of Convener of the Standards Commission Scotland and has a background in law focusing on banking, compulsory competitive tendering and housing stock transfer. Recently UNISON participated in discussion groups for the review taking forward the principles for public services laid out in our Revitalise our Public Services manifesto.

Context of the Review

The previous Executive Efficient Government Plan (see briefing 135) included a commitment to improve the way scrutiny bodies operated in regard to public services. The document states that "regulation and performance monitoring needs to be proportionate, and not obstruct innovation" The review aims to make recommendations for change that will take place over a ten to fifteen year period and some shorter term recommendations over a five year timescale. Recommendations will cover:

  • The purpose principles and role of effective regulation, audit inspection and complaints handling
  • Governance arrangements
  • How scrutiny can better support continuous improvement
  • How scrutiny can be better coordinated
  • Priorities for change
  • Legislative or organisational changes required for implementation

Interim conclusions

An interim report was presented to Ministers in the previous administration in March 2007.The report concluded that:

  • The burden of external scrutiny has grown since devolution
  • 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

UNISON is pleased to see that the comments made in its submission to the process are reflected in the interim report.

Interim proposals

The interim report included the following suggestions for change:

  • A national scrutiny plan setting out priorities to be agreed between scrutiny bodies and in consultation with delivery bodies

  • A national timetable, agreed in conjunction with delivery bodies, that sets out which scrutiny body is going where, within a defined period, to avoid overlapping visits etc
  • An agreed core dataset to be provided by each delivery body, which all scrutiny bodies use in the course of their work, with the proviso that any additional information request should meet a specific set of criteria before being complied with
  • The development of a common assessment framework for all public services to enable greater focus on self assessment which is presented for external scrutiny
  • Scrutiny bodies to report on how their work focuses on the experience and outcomes for service users and/or citizens
  • All scrutiny and delivery bodies to develop common public reporting language and assessments in their reports

The proposals reflect members concerns about the burden placed of organisations by the current regime. UNISON is concerned at the timescale for change and hope for, at a minimum, better coordination of visits before the three to five year timescale stated for even short term changes.

The next stage of the review

UNISON recently participated in a series of dialogue events the review body set up across Scotland. UNISON members were also in attendance in their professional capacity. These events allowed participants to discuss the evidence gathered so far with other key stakeholders prior to Professor Crerar making his final recommendations. At the event and in a follow up written submission UNISON focused on

  • The problems caused by the duplication and overlap of scrutiny visits and the need for this to be dealt with quickly
  • The workload involved in compiling information for reviews and how this divert resources away from delivery
  • The need to develop appropriate performance measures for public services.
  • The value of involving not only users but public sector workers in processes aimed and improving services.
  • The importance of making space for local innovation within broad national standards to drive improvement

The review is taking account of reform elsewhere in the UK. The Better Regulation Task force in England is taking forward a number of measures to reform public service delivery in England and on reserved matters.

The review body has already identified that substantial changes are needed. Professor Crerar anticipates that he will now need to consider structural change, changes in the way scrutiny bodies focus and organise their work and legislative change. The full report is expected at the end of summer 2007.

Action for branches

This is clearly an important issue for UNISON. Please inform the P and I team of any problems you encounter during scrutiny reviews particularly if visits overlap or are close together. Members working in review bodies are also asked to inform the team of any changes in your workplace. Information should be addressed to Kay Sillars at the P&I Team in UNISON House k.sillars@unison.co.uk.

Further info

Briefing on Transforming public services:


Briefing on the Efficient government review


Scottish Executive scrutiny review


Executive Scrutiny Review presentation







Scottish Executive | Scottish Parliament | Briefings Home



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Further Information

Contacts list:

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