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The government is proposing to relax political restrictions for staff. ...
The government is proposing to relax political restrictions for staff.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has launched a consultation on the subject, with proposals to increase the number of council employees permitted to take part in political activities.

It has launched a parallel consultation on a proposed code of conduct for council staff, similar to the members' code.

At the moment, under the so-called Widdecombe rules, council staff with politically sensitive duties cannot become a candidate for election as a councillor or hold office in a political party.

These include chief officers, staff with salaries above£32,127, staff who give advice to the authority, those who speak to the media and political assistants to party groups.

The ODPM has suggested raising the salary threshold, dropping restrictions on political assistants and allowing staff to take part in national - as opposed to local - politics.

It has also suggested handing regulation of the restrictions regime - currently the responsibility of an ODPM-appointed independent adjudicator - to either council monitoring officers or the Standards Board for England.

The staff code of conduct would be the latest element of the Local Government Act 2000 standards regime to be implemented.

Under the plans, the code would be incorporated into staff contracts rather than regulated by the Standards Board, as with the member code.

The consultations will run until 19 November.

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