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Council comes out top at scrutiny awards

Boston Borough Council has been voted the country's top council for transparency, inclusiveness and accountability after scooping two of the premier scrutiny awards.

From left: Boston Borough Council leader Cllr Peter Bedford, Baroness Sally Hamwee, chairman of the Centre for Public Scrutiny judging panel, chairman of Boston Borough Council social impact of population change task and finish group Cllr Paul Kenny, Boston Borough Council deputy chief executive Phil Drury, Boston Borough Council communications manager Andrew Malkin with their clutch of Centre for Public Scrutiny awards.

The decisions were made by a panel of judges which included a baroness, a chief executive, a former London Assembly chairman, chairman of the Local Government Association improvement board, the Guardian newspaper's public services editor and delegates from public services all over the country attending the Centre for Public Scrutiny annual conference.

The council's work on the social impact of population change received the Scrutineers' Choice Award, judged by peers, at the conference in London on Tuesday (June 11) and the judge's Overall Impact award presented to the best of the winners.

The council was also one of three shortlisted for an award in the Raising the Profile category.

Announcing the main award of the evening Nick Raynsford MP, chairman of the CfPS, said: "This is the top award, the pinnacle, scrutiny's equivalent of Britain's Got Talent."

He said the work by Boston Borough Council had demonstrated the need for a community to work together.

The awards celebrate transparency, inclusiveness and accountability in public services, the work of non-executives in the public sector and the role they play in representing and supporting local people.
The council was applauded for using scrutiny to give everyone an opportunity to talk about the impact on communities caused by a sudden and dramatic influx of migrant workers, especially in rural areas with a long history of population stability.
The judges considered that the work enabled people to talk about something that is not usually talked about.

"In this way Boston's scrutiny turned what was a tense local situation into a reasoned and frank debate about immigration. It demonstrated scrutiny's power in facilitating a powerful public discourse, said the judges.

Delegates at the conference spoke about Boston's "bravery" in tackling such a sensitive subject as immigration and praised the report for its no-nonsense and straight forward approach which had sought to guarantee all who wanted to could take part in its production.

Council leader, Cllr Peter Bedford, said Boston had woken up to the challenges of migration "going where others feared to tread", adding that councillors all over the country needed to follow on.

Cllr Paul Kenny, chairman of the population change task and finish group, thanked the team which had worked on the project and all those who had given evidence and demonstrated interest.

He added: "This is the start of the process, not the end."

Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, Mary Beard, who spoke on national television in praise of the council's population change report, said: "I am absolutely delighted that Boston Borough Council has won this award. It is richly deserved recognition of all its hard and sensible work in this area."

Jessica Crowe, Executive Director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny, said: "I am delighted to congratulate Boston on winning both the Overall Impact through Scrutiny and Scrutineers' Choice awards for their brave review of the impact of inward migration into the area.

 "The success of their approach demonstrates the value of scrutiny when it is bold and outward-looking. Done well, scrutiny reviews like Boston's can help councils successfully tackle some of the biggest issues facing our communities today."

CfPS believes that accountability, transparency and involvement are strong principles that protect the public interest. 

A short film, produced in support of the council's scrutiny awards submission and made by Cultural Solutions UK and Blueprint Film, who have worked with the Alchemy multicultural project in Boston, can be seen on You Tube at Scrutiny awards