‘Effective Public Engagement and scrutiny go hand in hand’ – these are the words of Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government, in her opening speech at the conference ‘Scrutiny in the Spotlight’ in the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff on 28 November. Since then my working life seems to have been a whirl of scrutiny related conversations and activities. I was pleased to be facilitating a session with Kevin and Virginia from the National Assembly for Wales on the very topic of public engagement and scrutiny. It was good to hear the views and opinions of scrutiny members and officers on this important issue. Views and experiences were varied but a common thread was the issue of ‘How do we make scrutiny sexy?’ (my words not theirs!), do people understand what scrutiny is and do they realise its relevancy to their lives? Is it relevant to their lives?
I then ‘did scrutiny’ in Swansea – my first time and very interesting! I have been co-opted onto a panel looking at public engagement, both across the LSB and the Council, an involvement that has been financially support by the ESF LSB in Welsh Government. We first met last week to question officers and the deputy leader on the role of engagement within the LSB in Swansea – a useful and insightful experience. Next week we look at the vision and plan of Swansea Council in terms of Public Engagement. I wonder what the people of Swansea think?
Apart from these two scrutinising experiences I have also had conversations with the third sector on how they might better be prepared for involving individuals and groups in scrutiny processes. I sense the time is coming and is needed already here when the people of Wales demand more from scrutiny and expect to have their say. The age of public scrutineers is upon us – are we ready?
In Participation Cymru this is one of the key strands of our work as we move forward into a new year. Our work is based around 4 pillars, identified in WCVA’s publication ‘Putting People at the Centre’: Engagement, Prevention and early intervention, Seeking alternative Models and Scrutiny. We will be offering training on Public Engagement and Scrutiny in our new accredited training course, Public Engagement: Theory and Practice (Stage 2) and scrutiny and public engagement will be the theme of our February 2014 regional networks. Our network events fill up very quickly so please book now to avoid disappointment. We will be continuing our work with Swansea Scrutiny and also beginning some exciting work with the Centre for Public Scrutiny.
So, it is indeed Scrutiny, Scrutiny, Scrutiny!! And thinking about it……..we might even hold a competition for coming up with a sexier name for what is a vital aspect of citizen centred public services in Wales. Watch out for this exciting opportunity…