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BOARD BRACED FOR COMPLAINTS

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The Standards Board for England is preparing for a surge in complaints from councillors in the run up to the May el...
The Standards Board for England is preparing for a surge in complaints from councillors in the run up to the May elections.

The national code of conduct is expected to be laid before Parliament on Tuesday. It will come into force no later than six months afterwards, at which point the board can start taking complaints.

However, individual councils can implement the code earlier, giving unscrupulous councillors the opportunity to misuse the complaints procedure in the run up to local elections.

Chair of the board - which is being officially launched on Tuesday - Tony Holland is concerned councillors will try to score political points by making complaints against each other. The tendency has been documented in Australia and Mr Holland is studying work done by the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission to tackle it.

But Mr Holland, who sees the board's role as one of reassuring councillors by

giving them clear guidelines as much as policing them, said he did not want to 'make too much' of the preparations.

Mr Holland has confirmed the board will publish its judgments, but only after it has come to a decision.

He said: 'You can't say there was a complaint and it was resolved. That means we will give people [the result] both on the web site and in a court digest.'

He added: 'If we come to a view that we're prepared to be definitive, then looking at old cases will give people out there a clearer structure.'

The board's remit includes London mayor Ken Livingstone. Despite last Thursday's referendum results, it has not discussed issues raised by directly elected mayors.

Nor has it made plans for dealing with a council where standards have been a chronic problem. The board may consider special teams to work on these cases if the executive says there is a need.

The executive, which will decide the details of the board's modus operandi, is made up of three ethical standards officers and a legal officer - appointments are underway, and include civil service and local government recruits.

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