Update for council governance guide

28 May 16

CIPFA’s revised guide on governance in local government takes account of social and economic changes and a plethora of legislative developments

The Delivering Good Governance in Local Government framework, published by CIPFA in association with Solace in 2007, set the standard for local authority governance in the UK. CIPFA and Solace have reviewed the framework to ensure it remains fit for purpose and the revised edition and accompanying guidance notes for English authorities are now available. Separate guidance notes for Scottish and Welsh authorities and the police in England and Wales are being drafted and will be published later this year.

Much has happened in local government since 2007. It continues to undergo significant change, much of it driven by austerity, and will need to continue to adapt. Councils have responded to austerity through greater collaboration and developing their enabling role. They will continue to make difficult decisions which may mean that some services are no longer provided and, when doing this, will need to communicate effectively with their communities, service users, stakeholders and individuals to ensure the most vulnerable citizens are protected.

At the same time, local government has been undergoing significant change and the environment in which it works is becoming increasingly complex. In addition to economic and financial difficulties, the integration of health and social care, the Localism Act, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act and other key pieces of legislation have brought new roles, opportunities and greater flexibility for authorities.

The development of combined authorities and devolution deals, together with elected mayors, brings about the chance to design governance structures from the bottom up. It provides the opportunity to ensure that the core principles of good governance, covering openness and stakeholder engagement, defining outcomes, monitoring performance and demonstrating effective accountability, are integrated and embedded in new structures and that mechanisms for effective scrutiny are established.

New responsibilities and the development of innovative collaborative structures and ways of working provide challenges for governance such as ensuring transparency and, in particular, over managing risk. Whether working with other authorities, public sector bodies, the third sector or private sector providers, councils must ensure all joint arrangements follow the principles of good governance and are managed and reviewed with sufficient rigour.

The core principles and subprinciples included in the revised Framework are taken from International Framework: Good Governance in the Public Sector (published by CIPFA and IFAC) . The new framework interprets these for a local government context. To achieve good governance, each council will need to demonstrate its governance structures comply with the core and subprinciples in the framework. They should therefore develop and maintain a local code of governance or governance arrangements reflecting these principles.

Delivering Good Governance in Local Government: Framework positions the attainment of sustainable economic, societal and environmental outcomes as a key focus of governance processes and structures. Outcomes are what give the role of local government its meaning and importance, and it is fitting that they have this central role in its governance. Also, the focus on sustainability and the links between governance and public financial management are crucial — local authorities must recognise the need to focus on the long term. They have responsibilities to more than current electors; they must consider the impact of decisions and actions on future generations.

Local authorities will be required to prepare a governance statement in accordance with Delivering Good Governance in Local Government: Framework (2016) from the financial year 2016-17 onwards.

Did you enjoy this article?