Is Scrutiny a Critical Friend?

Earlier today I was involved in a really good debate about the critical friend role with the Overview & Scrutiny Business Committee.

Critical Friend is an interesting term and one that gets used a lot.  I’m not sure people really give as much thought as they should to exactly what it means and the best way to put it into practice. 

Anyhow, here is the presentation I gave. 

View more presentations from Dave Mckenna.

Some of the points raised included:

  • The difference between being a critical friend in scrutiny and how people work together normally
  • Can you act as a critical friend and hold to account in a political sense at the same time?
  • The importance of arriving at a clear aim when acting as a critical friend in scrutiny – one that has cross party support
  • Are there only some areas of council business where the critical friend relationship can be effective – e.g. childrens’ services?

Overall the discussion reinforced the importance of first being crystal clear about what you mean by ‘critical friend’ in scrutiny, and second, of spending time working out how the critical friend relationship will lead to improvements in whichever service is being scrutinised.


  1. […] Board has continued to provide ‘critical friend’ challenge and support to the improvement programme for Child & Family Services.   During […]

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