Successful tenant scrutiny? We’re not there yet.

Monday 30th of October 2023

Successful tenant scrutiny? We’re not there yet.

At the October meetup for Local Authority and ALMO engagement officers we had some great conversations around tenant scrutiny – what’s working and what’s not. Overall, as a sector, it’s hard to argue that things are where they should be although some still feel that their organisation is going in the right direction.

This chimes with what I heard from a workshop at the recent Tpas National Scrutiny Conference looking at the question of ‘tenant scrutiny – are we doing enough to make a difference?’ Some people felt that good things were happening intheir own organisation, but it seems there was less to be excited about looking across the sector as a whole.

The theme of the meetup was ‘Successful scrutiny for council tenants - revisited’ – looking back to a report I produced for Tpas in 2020. If you haven’t seen it – you can find it here:

Two things stood out from the conversations at the meetup. The first thing was that people felt they were facing the same barriers and challenges – getting a more diverse group of tenants involved, particularly young people – and the second thing was that everyone has their own way of doing things – there is certainly no ‘one size fits all’.

The keys to scrutiny success

So, if we are not where we want to be and we want to move forward, how do we do that?

In the ‘Successful scrutiny for council tenants report’ I picked up ‘10 keys to scrutiny success’ from the four case sites I spoke to and I was curious to explore them further at the meetup.

The 10 keys are:

  1. Learning and development
  2. Support and resources
  3. Relationships and respect
  4. Organisational culture
  5. Role and recognition
  6. Scrutiny process
  7. Senior buy-in
  8. Access to information
  9. Recruiting and retaining
  10. Keeping in touch

We did some ‘quick reaction’ polls with the group to see how people were feeling about the keys. Here are the things that came out on top:

• The most important: Support and resources, relationships and respect, senior buy in.
My organisation does best: Support and resources, relationships and respect, keeping in touch.
• We would like to improve: Recruiting and retaining, organisational culture, senior buy in, role and recognition.

We also did some work finding the ‘keys to scrutiny success’ that people were already using.

Here is a selection of 20 ideas from the group, we hope this list is helpful:

  1. Having a good mix of skills and personalities sitting on scrutiny
  2. Offering different ways to get involved
  3. Having housing staff and managers that are supportive of scrutiny
  4. Providing support and training where needed
  5. Sending letters or newsletters asking tenants if they want to be involved in specific areas rather than the whole process or group/panels.
  6. Try to match tenants with skills/passion for a particular service/scrutiny piece
  7. A well-documented and visible result for the activity where it can be clearly shown the benefit and effect and outcomes of the activity
  8. Good feedback on scrutiny results to tenants, staff and councillors
  9. Involve service leads from the start to ensure 'buy in'
  10. Need buy in from staff involved in a review. Let them know it’s a collaboration of ideas to identify strengths and weaknesses and if possible improve the service
  11. Flexibility. Example, holding interviews with tenants in their own homes.
  12. Effective, considered and targeted communication
  13. Changing organisational culture to see the importance of engagement
  14. The common thread is to set clear expectations around the task expected
  15. Being kind, empathetic and professional - both residents and staff.
  16. Collaborative working with customers - showing that you are listening to their feedback and value it.
  17. Mutual respect and trust between both. Need 'you said we did' so panel sees benefit of doing scrutiny
  18. Evidence-led choice of subject
  19. Being able to relate to the situations tenants are reviewing and facing.
  20. Giving resources and rewards for tenant’s hard work.

About the meetup

The meetup took place on 19th October 2013. We had 33 engagement officers taking part.

We had a series of interactive activities allowing participants to share experiences and ideas as well as trying out some engagement techniques. This time we started with ‘nine-minute networking’ – two nine-minute rounds of discussing two talking points in groups of 3 or 4, mixed up for the second round. We then did some ‘appreciative interviews’, taking turns, in groups of 3 or 4, to share and explore examples of when things have gone well. We also used zoom polls to check opinions in the room.

We finished, as always, with ‘open space’ – an opportunity for participants to raise anything at all to the whole group.

Article written by Dave McKenna, Tpas Associate and Scrutiny Expert.

Further information

Our next meet up is on 18th January 2024 and you can book your place here 

You can also join our dedicated Tpas Connect group for LA and ALMO members – see here for more information 

If you have any questions about the above, please contact Lisa Holt on