Belfast City Hall

Discussions on assurance framework for local government begin

The Local Government Association has announced that it has begun working alongside the public sector, professional associations and other groups as it starts to map out the elements that provide assurance on the performance of local government.

Assurance relating to the performance of local government is in the interest of clarity and transparency, whilst also helping to understand how they all fit together. This development follows on from a recommendation from the recent LGA corporate peer challenge.

As soon as the mapping of different assurance elements has been completed, the LGA has stated that there will be an opportunity to consider how the current checks and balances can be simplified, improved, or enhanced. This would help to provide even greater assurance in the sector.

Through the Improvement and Assurance Framework for Local Government, the ‘sector-led improvement’ approach is underpinned by the principles that councils are held to account locally, not nationally, whilst also having a sense of collective responsibility for the performance of the local government sector.

The main structures that reinforce accountability across the sector are:

  • Free and fair elections for councillors responsible for making public decisions
  • Independent external audit
  • Independent regulation of service standards and practice
  • Opportunities for individuals and their advocates to complain and seek remedy and redress for service and ethical failures.

Councillor Abi Brown, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said:

“There are already many ways in which councils are held to account, including the ballot box, independent external audit and regulation, and the internal controls within local authorities.

“Councils also challenge and support each other continuously to improve, supported by the LGA. For example, LG Inform provides benchmarking information so that councils and the public can compare any council’s performance with any other council or group of councils. Our Corporate Peer Challenge provides robust, strategic, and credible challenge and support to councils, and these reports are all published.

“But there is nothing that brings these different strands into one place or demonstrates how they fit together.

“It is right therefore that the local government sector works together to describe and clarify the assurance framework so that the public and councils themselves can better understand how to gain assurance of the performance of local government.”

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