Executive investigates inspection overload

13 Oct 05
The Scottish Executive is planning to review the multitude of bodies that regulate, inspect and audit local authorities.

14 October 2005

The Scottish Executive is planning to review the multitude of bodies that regulate, inspect and audit local authorities.

Officials have revealed to Public Finance that the Executive is considering how best to carry out a review following concern about the pressures caused by the present level of regulation and scrutiny.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Edinburgh City Council have each carried out separate research that shows how the number of external bodies involved in scrutinising councils has soared.

These include the Accounts Commission, Care Commission, the recently formed Social Work Inspection Agency, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, Communities Scotland (which monitors housing standards), the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and police, schools and fire service inspectorates.

Edinburgh City Council says it is inspected by at least 13 different bodies. It claims there is unnecessary overlap and duplication and that officials spend a large amount of time preparing for inspections and carrying out other work that involves external scrutiny.

One senior local government source said: 'This is becoming something of an industry. We need to look at the amount of investment that goes into inspection and regulation. You need regulation to safeguard vulnerable individuals in particular, but I think we are over-regulated and over-inspected.'

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said it was looking at opportunities for promoting joint working across the regulators and inspectors and improved information sharing.

She added: 'We are currently in discussions as to how best to undertake a review of the scrutiny. We are aware of the concerns across local government and other public bodies about the burden of regulation and scrutiny.'

It is understood that one of the aims of the review will be to try to make the system of scrutiny simpler and more effective. A review would be in line with the Executive's wider aims of promoting efficient government by encouraging more joined-up working across the public sector.

Jon Harris, Cosla's strategic director, said that despite the level of resources going into external audit, inspection and regulation, the scrutiny landscape was much wider.

'We should not underestimate the importance of internal scrutiny and local accountability,' he stressed.


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