Cheshire East Council

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Guide issued for councils considering changing governance arrangements

The Centre for Public Scrutiny and the Local Government Association have published a guide for councils considering making changes to their governance arrangements.

The Rethinking governance document, which can be viewed here, is intended to set out “how councillors and officers can achieve their governance objectives using an evidence-based and accountable approach to structural change”.

The guide explains the changes to governance introduced by the Localism Act 2011  and includes a ‘thinking toolkit’ that sets out a five-step process to help councils address the right issues and ask the right questions:

  1. Planning your approach and assessing your current position;
  2. Considering some design principles;
  3. Thinking of ways to establish a system that meets the requirements of these principles and putting a plan in place;
  4. Making the change;
  5. Returning to the issue and reviewing how things have gone.

The document also includes evidence from different governance arrangements and five cases studies where councils have held governance reviews recently.

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“The guide will help councils to decide whether informal governance changes, including tightening of existing processes, enabling more member involvement in policy-making and improving public consultation arrangements, or the more formal approach of legally changing to a different decision making model is the best approach,” the CFPS said.

Jessica Crowe, the CFPS’ Executive Director, said: “When councils think about changing their governance, the issue can quickly become over-politicised, or conversely can be treated as a purely technical exercise: neither are right. 

“This highly practical guide is based on real experiences and learning from those who have been through it. It demonstrates the importance of being clear right from the start about your objectives and thinking through all the options that may exist for achieving them.”

She added: “CfPS believes that political and organisational culture is more important than governance structures in determining how accountable, transparent and inclusive an organisation is: this guide will help councils address cultural as well as structural issues.”

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