Local government minister Beverley Hughes confirmed in guidance on standards boards that rather than issuing 'stop' notices, district auditors will urge the council to reconsider their actions or seek a solution in the courts. The DETR said the change would give more control to councils.
John Rees, assistant director of legal services at the Local Government Association, welcomed the change. 'The LGA has always been of the opinion that local government should make their own minds up rather than being stopped doing something. Elected representatives should be able to decide for themselves whether something is illegal or not.'
This change came into force at the end of December with the introduction of Part III of the Local Government Act 2000, which Ms Hughes hailed in a letter to councils as 'the first building block of the new ethical framework for local government'.
The government has also published a consultation document on a proposed regulatory framework within which councils will operate standards committees. They have until March to respond.
The DETR is hoping to appoint a chair of the National Standards Board soon. It advertised for applicants in December.
Ms Hughes said: 'This is a time of reorganisation and change for local government. Councils across the country now have the opportunity to create a culture of openness and accountability. People are entitled to a council they can trust; these reforms will give them one.'