Archives for August 5th, 2004

SCRUTINY AND THE POLITICAL PARTY GROUP IN UK LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Abstracts, PublicNet: 5 August, 2004

By Steve Leach and Colin Copus.The introduction, via the Local Government Act 2000, of political executives held to account by influential overview and scrutiny committees challenges fundamentally the traditional operations of the party group system. This paper uses evidence from a variety of sources (including the experience of Parliamentary select committees) to explore how councillors are managing the tensions between party group loyalty and the expectation surrounding the operation of scrutiny. Four models of party group behaviour are identified with the group acting as partner, arbitrator, filter and Leviathan respectively. These typologies are then used (together with research evidence) to interpret the circumstances in which effective scrutiny may be aided or hindered by party group dynamics. Three alternative scenarios, which illustrate the impact of different political dynamics on the effectiveness of scrutiny, are identified and explored. It is concluded that the success of the overview and scrutiny experiment is by no means assured and faced with the intransigent nature of most party group behaviour, the future of effective scrutiny hangs in the balance.

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PUBLIC SECTOR MANAGER’S PAY AHEAD OF INFLATION

Headlines, PublicNet: 5 August, 2004

Earnings of public sector managers rose by 5.3 per cent in the last year, from 39,580 pounds to 41,694 pounds. This puts them behind managers in the chemical industry who top the ‘earnings league table’ with 55,359 pounds, but ahead of retail managers at the bottom of the league with 35,748 pounds. The UK average pay increase for all employment is 4.2%. Inflation currently stands at 2.3%.The survey of management pay by the Chartered Management Institute and Remuneration Economics also found that the bonus element of pay had declined in the year. The average total bonus fell by almost £500, from 3,955 pounds in 2003 to 3,509.

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COUNCILLORS GIVE THUMBS DOWN TO NEW TOWN HALL GOVERNANCE

Headlines, PublicNet: 5 August, 2004

The political management reforms introduced by the Local Government Act of 2000 are opposed by a majority of councillors. The changes brought by the Act include the replacement of the ‘committee system’ of decision making by an executive cabinet, with scrutiny committees challenging the decisions of the executive. In contrast the majority of council officers, executive councillors and stakeholders who work closely with councils, support the changes. These findings are published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in a report ‘Operating the New Council Constitutions in English Local Authorities: A Process Evaluation’.The report notes that overview and scrutiny procedures are a problematic element of the new arrangements but that considerable progress had been made since the launch of the new arrangements in May 2002. In many councils decisions by the executive are not called in for scrutiny. Overview and scrutiny is being approached in a variety of different ways. In some cases it is used as a management tool and focused on issues of concern to the executive. In other councils it is driven by the individual interests and enterprise of non-executive councillors pursuing issues of concern to them. There are also councils where it is used as an opposition point scoring game. Some councils have not adopted the process with the result that non-executive councillors are virtually on mass disengaged.

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