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NEW STANDARDS IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNVEILED

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National code of conduct for councillors published ...
National code of conduct for councillors published

A new set of rules that councillors will be required to observe while

carrying out their duties was published today by local government

minister Nick Raynsford.

Following extensive consultation with local government and building

upon the general principles of conduct published in April they

require councillors to:

- record any personal interests, and gifts or hospitality they

receive. These will be available in public registers maintained by

the local authority;

- declare personal interests before participating in council

business; and

- set out the circumstances in which councillors should not take part

in council business because of conflicts of interests.

The provisions of the code of conduct - laid today before Parliament

- must now be adopted by every council, including parish councils and

is part of the new ethical framework, established under the Local

Government Act 2000.

In response to a Parliamentary Question from Dr Phyllis Starkey

(Milton Keynes South West) Mr Raynsford said:

'The government has embarked on a radical programme to modernise

local government and deliver better services. Strong and effective

leadership is at the heart of this vision. It is essential that

communities trust those in local government and equally that members

have clear guidelines under which they must operate.

'The code, published today, meets those two objectives. It will help

safeguard and raise standards of conduct in local government -

ensuring that the highest professional standards are met by those who

run our councils and represent our communities.

'I believe the code is a considerable improvement on its predecessor.

It is easier to understand, and easier for members to apply to their

day to day duties. We need to keep the provisions under review, to

ensure their workability and also to make sure that the public has

the reassurance it needs that those they elect really are serving

only the public interest. I shall from time to time ask the Standards

Board for England to review the efficacy of the code, or specific

provisions within it, and provide advice to ministers on whether it

can be improved.'

The new framework - which will be fully operational by early 2002 -

includes a new independent body, Standards Board, set up to

investigate breaches of the code and a new independent adjudication

panel to ensure fair hearings. Each council is also required to set

up a standards committee to oversee the conduct in that council.

There will also be a statutory code of conduct for employees, to be

drawn up in consultation with local authorities.

The code also covers elected and appointed members of the Greater

London Authority, police authorities, fire authorities, national park

authorities, The Broads Authority and joint authorities established

under the Local Government Act 1985.

Notes

1. Today's announcement is part of secondary legislation, set out

in the Local Government Act 2000.The code is subject to negative

procedure.

2. The code develops the general principles of conduct published

last April. These were based on the seven principals of public life

established by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired

by Lord Nolan.

3. Nick Raynsford announced the publication of the code in response

to a written Parliamentary Question from Dr Phyllis Starkey (Milton

Keynes South West). The full text of the PQ is as follows:

I have today laid before the house four model codes of conduct for

members of relevant authorities. The four are:

- The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2000 - which

covers principal local authorities, the Greater London Authority,

The City of London, the Scilly Isles Council, Fire and joint

authorities.

- The Parish Councils (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2000

- The National Parks and the Broads Authority (Model Code of Conduct)

Order 2000; and

- The Police Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) ( England and Wales)

Order 2000.

The government has embarked on a radical programme to modernise local

government and deliver better services. Strong and effective

community leadership is at the heart of this vision. It is essential

that communities trust those in local government and equally that

members have clear guidelines under which they must operate.

The code, published today, meets those two objectives. It will help

safeguard and raise standards of conduct in local government -

ensuring that the highest professional standards are met by those who

run our councils and represent our communities.

Authorities now have six months in which to adopt their own codes of

conduct, which must contain the mandatory provisions set out in the

relevant model codes.

I believe the code is a considerable improvement on its predecessor.

It is easier to understand, and easier for members to apply to their

day to day duties. We need to keep the provisions under review, to

ensure their workability and also to make sure that the public has

the reassurance it needs that those they elect really are serving

only the public interest. I shall from time to time ask the Standards

Board for England to review the efficacy of the code, or specific

provisions within it, and provide advice to ministers on whether it

can be improved.

I will ensure that copies of all four codes are placed in the House

Libraries.

4. 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).

- Councils will have lead responsibility for their own standards of

conduct. The Act requires them to establish standards committees to

maintain standards within the council. A Statutory Instrument (SI

no 2001/2812) came into force on 28 August relating to appointments

to and procedures under which standards committees will operate.

- Section 57 of the Act makes provision for a new independent body,

the Standards Board for England.

5. Copies of the code of conduct will be available from HMSO.

Attached is a summary of the provisions.

EXPLANATORY NOTE TO MAIN CODE

Each Order contains a model code of conduct as regards the conduct

which is expected of members and co-opted members of relevant

authorities in England. Under section 51 of the Local Government Act

2000, each relevant authority must adopt a code of conduct applying

to its members which must incorporate any mandatory provisions of the

model code. Under section 51(5) of that Act, where an authority does

not adopt such a code within six months of the Order coming into

force, the mandatory provisions of the model code will apply to the

members of the authority until it does.

Article 1 provides that this Order applies only to the named

authorities.

Article 2 provides that a model code for authorities operating

executive arrangements is set out in Schedule 1 to the Order, and

that all of its provisions are mandatory and article 3 provides that

a model code for authorities not operating executive arrangements is

set out in Schedule 2 to the Order, and that all of its provisions

are mandatory. Where an authority ceases to, or begins to operate

executive arrangements, it must adopt the appropriate code or revise

its existing code in accordance with the appropriate code.

Article 4 makes transitional provision for eight months following the

coming into force of the Order to disapply existing statutory

provisions relating to the National Code of Local Government Conduct,

members' interests, surcharge and declarations of office.

Schedule 1 to the Order applies in relation to authorities operating

executive arrangements. The model code in Schedule 2 to the Order

makes similar provision as that in Schedule 1 for members of

authorities not operating executive arrangements, with the omission

of references to executive arrangements.

Paragraph 1 applies the provisions of the code whenever a member is

acting in his official capacity, and that it does not apply in other

circumstances except in paragraphs 4 and 5 below. Additionally, where

a member is acting as a representative of his authority, he must

continue to observe the authority's code, unless he is subject to

another relevant authority's code, or unless (in relation to any

other body) it conflicts with any other legal obligations.

Paragraph 2 provides that members must promote equality, treat others

with respect and not do anything which compromises the impartiality

of those who work for the authority.

Paragraph 3 provides that members must not without consent disclose

confidential information they have acquired and must not prevent

others from gaining access to information to which they are entitled.

Paragraph 4 provides that in all circumstances, a member must not

conduct himself in a manner which could bring his authority into

disrepute.

Paragraph 5 provides that in all circumstances a member must not use

his position improperly to gain an advantage or confer a disadvantage

and that when using or authorising the use of the authority's

resources, he must act in accordance with the authority's

requirements and must not permit those resources to be used for

political purposes.

Paragraph 6 provides that a member must have regard to any relevant

advice provided to him by the authority's chief finance officer which

relates to the officer's report on unlawful expenditure or

expenditure which exceeds resources, and to relevant advice provided

by the authority's monitoring officer which relates to the officer's

report on contraventions of law or maladministration. It also

provides that in reaching executive decisions, a member must give

reasons for the decision in accordance with the authority's and

statutory requirements.

Paragraph 7 provides that a member must make a written allegation of

misconduct to the Standards Board for England if he becomes aware of

conduct by another member involving failure to comply with the

authority's code of conduct.

Paragraph 8 provides that a member has a personal interest in a

matter which has been registered, or where a decision upon a matter

could reasonably be regarded as affecting the well-being or financial

position of those persons described in the paragraph.

Paragraph 9 provides that a member with a personal interest in a

matter must disclose that interest at any meeting at which the matter

is considered, and where an executive decision is taken in relation

to that matter, must ensure that the interest is recorded in the

written statement of the decision.

Paragraph 10 provides that a member with a personal interest also has

a prejudicial interest if the interest could be regarded by a member

of the public as so significant that it is likely to prejudice his

judgment of the public interest. The paragraph provides that in the

circumstances specified a member may regard himself as not having a

prejudicial interest.

Paragraph 11 provides that a personal and prejudicial interest arises

for a member at a meeting of an overview and scrutiny committee where

that committee considers a decision of another committee in which he

was involved, unless he attends to give evidence about that decision.

Paragraph 12 provides that a member with a prejudicial interest must

unless he has obtained a dispensation withdraw from any meetings at

which the matter is being considered, and must not exercise executive

functions or influence decisions in relation to the matter. In the

circumstances specified a member with a prejudicial interest may

participate in meetings.

Paragraph 13 defines 'meeting' for the purposes of Part 3.

Paragraph 14 provides that a member must notify the authority's

monitoring officer of the financial interests specified in the

paragraph and paragraph 15 provides that he must notify the

authority's monitoring officer of the other interests specified in

the paragraph. Any change to those interests must also be notified

under paragraph 16.

Paragraph 17 provides that a member must notify the authority's

monitoring officer of any gift or hospitality he receives which may

be over the value of£25.

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