carrying out their duties will ensure that the highest professional
standards are met by those who run our councils and lead our
communities. That was local government minister Alan Whitehead's
The code of conduct - the final piece in the government's new ethical
framework for local government - came into force this month. Under
this all councillors must:
- Promote equality, treat councillors with respect, and must not
bring their council into disrepute
- Record any personal interest, and gifts or hospitality they
receive in their capacity as a councillor
- Declare personal interests before participating in council
- Set the circumstances in which councillors should not take part in
council business because of conflicts in interests
Nearly 4,000 councils - including over 3,500 parish councils - have
notified the Standards Board that they have now adopted the new
codes. A further number have signed up, but have not yet formally
notified the Standards Board.
Dr Whitehead said:
'The government wants to see the highest standards of conduct within
local government. The three key elements of the framework - the codes
of conduct, standards committees and the Standards Board are now
'Members of all relevant authorities are now bound by the provisions
of the code and complaints about breaches can now be made to the
'The new codes provide reassurance for local people that their
councillors must observe the highest standards of conduct. This will
help to promote trust in councillors and confidence in the democratic
system and make the conduct expected by councillors quite clear.
'There has been a good deal of misunderstanding and misinformation
around the introduction of the codes. It is not true, for example,
that councillors must declare any Christmas presents or gifts
received in a private capacity. Nor must a councillor register his or
her spouse's shareholdings.
'The codes introduce a more common-sense approach to declaring
interests, which will allow councils to make better use of the
expertise and special interests of members. There are clear
guidelines covering the sort of prejudicial interests that should
debar councillors from taking part in decisions.
'I think it is absolutely right to expect parish councils to adopt a
register of interests. This is totally in line with the Nolan
Committee's recommendation. The majority of parish councils - and
their associations - actively support this change.
'The government fully appreciates that parish councillors are
especially in touch with grass roots democracy. They also have wide
discretionary powers and some parishes have the ability to raise a
precept on their electors, and some have budgets of up to£1m
'It is only right, therefore, that they are, and should be,
accountable to the local people of thearea, who have the right to
expect the same standards of conduct from their local parish
councillors as they expect from other elected representatives.
'I know that some councillors - especially parish councillors - have
looked at the new codes and felt unable to sign up. In the great
majority of cases, though, councillors have recognised the importance
of what we are trying to achieve, and considered that the
administrative effort and openness required is a price worth paying.
Nearly 4,000 councils across the country have notified us that they
have adopted the codes, and I am confident that the vast majority of
councils will in due course sign up. I very much hope that those
councillors who have hesitated will look at what their colleagues are
doing and will feel able to give their assent.'
At the conference Alan Whitehead also launched a consultation on the
procedures for local investigation of misconduct cases.
'We are proposing that the Standards Board for England should have
the central role in investigating major allegations, and in deciding
which cases should be handled locally. We feel that these
recommendations will give reassurance to local people and a clear,
sensible and fair process for local councillors.'
1. The Conference 'Confidence in local democracy' has been organised
by the Standards Board for England. It is intended to be an annual
event aimed at monitoring officers and standards committee members.
2. Alan Whitehead announced the publication of a consultation
exercise on the local determination of cases in response to a written
Parliamentary Question. The full text of the PQ
is as follows:
'I intend to publish very shortly a consultation paper with a
proposed framework for handling at local level allegations of
breaches of the Code of Conduct. The framework will help to promote
high standards of conduct among local councillors, and will provide
sensible and efficient procedures for resolving any allegations of
Copies of the consultation paper are available here .
Closing date for consultation
is 1 July 2002.
3. New Ethical framework - Key facts
Part III of the Local Government Act 2000 introduces a new ethical
framework for local government:
Section 49 of this Act provides the secretary of state with powers to
lay an order before Parliament specifying general principles of
conduct for members and co-opted members of relevant authorities,
such as parish councils, park authorities and police authorities. A
Statutory Instrument (SI no 2001/1401) setting out those principles
came into force on 6 April.
Section 50 provides the secretary of state with powers to issue model
codes of conduct for members and co-opted members of relevant
authorities in England (and Welsh police authorities). Four national
model codes were laid in parliament on 6 November 2001.
Councils will have lead responsibility for their own standards of
conduct. Section 53 of the Act requires them to establish standards
committees to maintain standards within the council.
Section 57 of the Act makes provision for a new independent body, the
Standards Board for England who will investigate allegations of
breaches of the codes.
Under section 52 of the Act, all serving councillors should provide a
written undertaking to observe the code within 2 months of it being
adopted by their council otherwise they will cease to be councillors.
New councillors are required, on accepting office, to undertake that
they will observe their authorities' code.