This post is boring and may send you to sleep.

“… there is no substitute for doing boring really well. Only when you have a solid foundation can you innovate”.

This is a quote from the Secretary of State’s governance inspection report following Northamptonshire County Council’s s.114 notice being issued, and we couldn’t agree more.

Decision making in local government is just that – local – and rightly so. The sector has a proud and distinguished history of innovation and leadership of public service delivery. Many local authorities have excellent governance and risk management arrangements but, according to the 2019 NAO report into local authority governance, risk profiles have risen by more than a third in the last ten years whilst resources spent on governance have fallen by a similar amount. There is also a correlation (perhaps not surprisingly) between those authorities with higher levels of governance issues and those with higher levels of risk.

The NAO also looked at six key elements of governance: audit committees, ethical standards for member behaviour, internal audit, risk management, overview and scrutiny, and statutory officers. External auditors reported concerns in two or more areas in 30% of authorities and in four areas or more in 9%. We know how extraordinarily well local authorities have dealt with challenge upon challenge in recent years. But for a large minority, the challenge of ensuring good governance has yet to be addressed. Continued failure to do so might not result in another s.114 notice being issued but it still may result in a rude awakening.

ECS have deep expertise in this area provided by ex-local authority s.151 officers, chief executives and other chief officers. For a confidential discussion please contact Michael Hainge on 07970 964004 or