Scrutiny

What is Scrutiny?

The Centre for Public Scrutiny defines scrutiny as:

“…the activity by one elected or appointed organisation or office examining and monitoring all or part of the activity of a public sector body with the aim of improving the quality of public services.”

The Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authorities worked together to develop scrutiny, funded by a grant from the Welsh Government. Scrutiny can be a challenge in an organisation with no executive (separate decision making group) but we have involved external experts, the public and officers from other Park departments to give objectivity.

The Current Topic for Scrutiny

Following the recent Scrutiny Review on the economic benefit of the Geopark status on local communities and businesses the report was approved by the National Park Authority on 5th February 2016 and is available here.

To request copies of the appendices please contact lora.davies@beacons-npa.gov.uk .

On 4 December 2015 the National Park Authority decided that because of the continued reduction in funding it was vital to review and assess the current partnerships it has with other organisations, as these were essential to achieve objectives and support Park purposes. It would also look at the potential for future partnerships, including those affected by legislative changes such as the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, the Environment Bill and the Historic Environment Bill.

The review will start on 1 April 2016 and last 12 months.  Before then the Authority members appointed to the panel will meet to scope the review and consider the expertise it will need to carry out this review.  As always the Authority welcomes volunteers from its town and community councils, as this brings valuable objectivity.  Please contact Lora Davies on 01874 624437 or email her on lora.davies@beacons-npa.gov.uk if you would like to be involved and can spare the time.

What have we scrutinised so far?

Two pilot reviews were carried out as part of the scrutiny project, you can view them and subsequent final reports here:

Sustainable Transport Scrutiny Report

Social Resilience Scrutiny Report

Sustainable Development Fund Scrutiny Report

Rights of Way Scrutiny Report

Rights of Way Scrutiny Report appendices

Minimisation of Damage to the Park’s Environment – Scrutiny Report

Communities – Inspiration and Benefit

Pre Application Planning Advice

Archaeology Scrutiny Report

The final project report is also available.  Please contact the officers below if you wish to view any of the appendices for this or any of the above reports.

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority will use scrutiny to carry out in-depth studies into areas of its work, involving members, officers, expert witnesses, other organisations and members of the public.  These studies will be used to improve services, shape future policy and highlight the work of the Authority. The Authority updated its Scrutiny Policy Amended Feb 2015 on the 26th September 2014 and this includes flow charts illustrating the scrutiny process.

In doing this the Authority will use the four principles of scrutiny and apply them to its scrutiny work:

  • Provides critical friend challenge to service delivery
  • Enables the voice and concerns of the public and its communities
  • Carried out by independent minded members and officers who lead and own the scrutiny process
  • Drives improvement in service delivery

What will be scrutinised?

Each year the Authority has to publish its improvement objectives, which focus on different aspects of its work that it feels are particularly important.  The Authority is audited on these by the Wales Audit Office who report on progress in an Annual Improvement Report.  You can see the most recent report here

The Authority has decided to use scrutiny to look in detail at two of its improvement objectives each year.  One will be a backward looking review at an objective from the previous year and the other will look at an objective from the current year.   For the 2012-13 financial year the following two objectives were selected:

1) Minimise damage to the Park’s environment, which will be evidenced by:

  • Delivery of key practical projects that mitigate negative impacts.
  • The establishment of baseline data to inform state of the Park monitoring.(This will result in a more thorough and scientific understanding of the current state of the Park’s environment).

2) Communities are inspired by and recognise the benefits of where they live.

Starting in January of this year, we began the process of publishing a list of our improvement objectives on these pages and asking the public to ‘vote’ on which two they feel the Authority should scrutinise that year.  The National Park Authority will take all views into account when making their final decision on the two topics.

How will Scrutiny be carried out?

The Authority will appoint a Scrutiny Panel for each scrutiny review which will include:

Up to six National Park Authority members (Who are the Members?)

  • An officer from a different department to the one being scrutinised
  • An external representative to provide objectivity – this could be a representative from a partner organisation, another National Park, an expert in the topic under scrutiny, or a member of the public

The Panel will plan the review, see what information the Authority already has, and identify what further evidence they will need.  They will usually set a number of key questions to which they will seek answers by gathering information in any or all of the following ways:

Research into existing reports, data and other information

  • Interviews with officers
  • Telephone or face to face interviews with the public
  • Telephone or face to face interviews with expert witnesses
  • Questionnaires
  • Hearings
  • Focus Groups
  • Use of the website to invite comments
  • Meetings with existing forums or groups (eg. Town and Community Councils, Area Advisory Forums)
  • Site visits

The panel will then write a report and make recommendations to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee who will then present recommendations to the full Authority and an action plan will be drawn up.  The Audit and Scrutiny Committee will monitor this action plan and all reports can be viewed via the Committees Calendar where all agendas are accessible.  We will also publish these on these scrutiny pages on the website.

 How can I get involved?

We will aim to keep these pages updated with progress on the current scrutiny reviews taking place with information about how you can get involved.  This is likely to be in one of the following ways:

  • Responding to a questionnaire in the press or on our website
  • Via a consultation process carried out with town and community councils or other community groups
  • Accepting an invitation to be an expert witness or part of a focus group or hearing if you have particular expertise in the service area
  • Letting us know if you would like to take part in a focus group on the service area
  • Letting us know what you think about the service area by email, telephone or in writing
  • By contacting the Scrutiny Officer, Lora Davies on 01874 624437 or email lora.davies@beacons-npa.gov.uk  or Julia Gruffydd (Democratic Services Manager) on 01874 620400 or email julia.gruffydd@breconbeacons.org

If you are asked to attend a scrutiny hearing we have prepared some guidelines to help you know what to expect.

Newsletters

We produce regular Newsletters on the latest news and developments of scrutiny within the Brecon Beacons National Park and the most recent issue, for October 2013, can be found here.