Engaging with scrutiny processes

Element Descriptor

Local authorities will have SOME sort of scrutiny process (fun fact – Manchester’s is, formally, ahead of the pack. #wtaf). While some of it may be boring, confusing or just for show, it is ALSO democracy in action. Failing to engage with it is to miss an opportunity to raise issues, build alliances, gain – in every sense – intelligence.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You can, with some preparation and following detailed advice, engage in the scrutiny process by attending a meeting, not being bewildered or dispirited, and perhaps even asking a question (in writing), or at least knowing how it could be done. You are able to explain – via blog post – what happened and what happens nextWith little preparation you can read reports, attend a scrutiny committee meeting and make pointed/awkward interventions that leave Exec members and officers discombobulated and/or scuttling for cover. You’re abe to help more junior people spot the various tactics of those who want to avoid or eviscerate scrutiny.You keep tabs on multiple issues, submitting FOIAs and questions in advance, publicising upcoming meetings, offering orientation to newbies, and co-ordinating reporting – on social media and blogs – about the mostly futile process. Your lobbying of scrutiny committee members even occasionally bears fruit, though some of it is bitter or strange.You are across all the scrutiny committees and issues, and are able to see and combat the counter-measures deployed by senior councillors and officers. You can compare and contrast current scrutiny arrangements with what was, what is elsewhere and what could be. Your mere presence at a meeting can cause smooth operators to see nowt but red mist.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

 The reason this is badly done is that scrutiny is an arcane, bewildering, formulaic, bureaucratic nightmare ritual, and that’s on a good day. So normal people look at it and then within half an hour think “why am I wasting my life? What is going on here?”

The consequences of not engaging with scrutiny is that the body in motion on the unimpeded or unaffected by other forces continues in the same direction as Newton would have it and that direction at the moment is to hell and handbasket.

 So what is to be done?

 A series of pieces of advice.

Number one, do not try to do this alone. You will burn out , and that would be a pity.

Number two, obviously, find other people to do it with.

Number three, commit to doing it for at least three months and after that time, you’ll realise that you are getting better at it. And it is becoming more obvious how the games are being played.

Number four, share that information with other people. More we name the tactics of those who are trying to bewilder us to confuse us the harder it is for those tactics to be effective.

That then forces the bureaucrats to be creative and innovative in their tactics, and bureaucrats tend not to be very creative or innovative.

So, you know, we’ve got a chance of even “winning”, though the whole concept of winning on a planet that now has 415 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the highest level in the last 3 million years or whatever. And that’s before you even think about the methane is an interesting concept. So,  you know, winning schminning.

ALTERNATIVE TEXT (more about planning)

Firstly you’d have to be some sort of masochist. 

The causes of this being badly done is if people just get very exercised energised, aerated, understandably, about one local issue and spend a lot of time and energy on that one local issue and find it hard to really get their heads around. Well, what IS the scrutiny committee? What is the planning committee? What are the procedures when can you speak when you do not speak when can you submit objections, not submit objections, etc.

And again, these systems, these procedures are rendered – often deliberately – opaque at least by the political masters. 

The consequences are the same. If you don’t know the terrain that you’re operating on, you’re gonna step in a bloody big pothole and at best break a leg. 

So the solutions are, again, read the constitutions, attend some meetings, see how the reality is slightly different from the Constitution,

 Maybe cultivate some councillors, and you know, they’ll be some sort of governance and scrutiny unit of officers whose job it is, in part, to explain to the public what’s going on. And you might get lucky and they might answer you in English and quickly because they’re careful or decent. diligent human beings these people do exist. And if they don’t, well, you just have to persist and realise that nothing’s gonna be handed to you at all.

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