The government is running a three-month consultation exercise on the proposals. These would complete the standards regime for council members which has been implemented following the Local Government Act 2000. Under the proposals, an ethical standards officer, appointed by the Standards Board for England, would be able to hand over investigation of minor breaches of the code of conduct to a council's monitoring officer.
'We need to ensure the highest possible ethical standards in local government. But we need a system which is efficient and workable.
This approach is a sensible, effective and proportionate way of handling allegations of misconduct at a local level.'
In parallel with the government's consultation, the Standards Board will consult on draft guidance for monitoring officers on how they can best undertake their duties under the proposed Regulations.
The ODPM has today begun a three month consultation on the proposals relating to the way in which monitoring officers of relevant authorities may investigate allegations of misconduct by members.
The consultation seeks comments on the proposed draft Local Authorities (Code of Conduct)(Local Determination)(Amendment) Regulations 2004, and the Standards Board for England (Functions) Order 2004.
The consultation will end on 18 May 2004.
At the same time the Standards Board for England will consult on draft guidance to monitoring officers on carrying out their investigatory role under the proposed Regulations.
Copies of the consultation papers issued by the ODPM and the Standards Board are being sent to local authorities, the library of the House of Commons and made available on the ODPM's website.
The Local Authorities (Code of Conduct)(Local Determination) Regulations 2003, which came into force on 30 June 2003, make provision for the consideration by standards committees of relevant authorities of matters referred to them by ethical standards officers (ESOs) following the completion of ESOs' reports on whether councillors have breached the members' code of conduct. The Regulations include arrangements for the convening of committee hearings to consider ESOs' reports and appeal arrangements to apply in cases where members who are the subject of committees' findings seek and receive permission to appeal against those findings.
The aim of the proposed new Amendment Regulations, on which views are being sought, is to make provision for monitoring officers to investigate allegations referred to them by ESOs that the code of conduct has been breached. They also provide for standards committees to consider reports made by monitoring officers following these investigations.
In addition, the ODPM is consulting on a draft functions order under section 57(3) of the Local Government Act 2000. The purpose of this is to clarify and put beyond doubt the extent of the powers available to the Standards Board for England in issuing guidance to standards committees and monitoring officers on carrying out their determination and inspection roles under the Regulations.
The ODPM is consulting on these Amendment Regulations and functions order in parallel with consultation being carried out by the Standards Board for England on guidance to monitoring officers on how they should carry out their role under the Regulations.