According to the October issue of the Scottish Local Government Information Unit's newsletter, both the secretary of state and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have stated clearly that the problem being addressed stems not from actual proven cases of misconduct, but from the growth in allegations and innuendo, and a reduction in public confidence in the systems of regulation which already exist.
The SLGIU says that local government already operates under a whole range of safeguards: internal and external audit; the ombudsman; the national code of conduct; provisions regarding declaration of interest; the powers of the secretary of state; statutory powers of head of paid service, monitoring officer and chief financial officer; control of delegation of power; and council standing orders.
The creation of yet more controls would merely add to public confusion, says the SLGIU, and it calls for:
- a review of the existing national code of conduct for councillors and the publication in local newspapers of the fact that all councillors have agreed to abide by the code
- simplified access to the local government ombudsman and better publicity about ombudsman powers and responsibilities. Consideration of strengthening of ombudsman powers, and the creation of a network of local offices with power to investigate local public spending bodies and publicly funded voluntary organisations as well as local authorities
- Stricter rules about the level at which councillors should be involved in making staff appointments, and the method of staff appointments.