Agenda item

The Future of the Standards Regime


Further to Minute No. 24 of the Committee’s meeting on 26 January 2011, when a report summarising the main provisions of The Localism Bill and the implications for the Standards Committee had been received, Members received a further report by the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management which served to updated them on the future of the Standards regime. 


The Director reported that the Government considered it was the right and the responsibility of the electorate to determine who represented it and that the abolition of the Standards regime would restore power to local people.  However, until such time as appropriate legislation had been passed, the current statutory framework remained operative.  Subject to Parliament approving the necessary legislation, the changes were summarised as follows:


·  The Relevant Authorities (General Principles) Order 2001, which sets out the principles which govern the conduct   of members and co-opted members of relevant authorities in England, will be revoked.


·  The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct ) order 2007 which prescribes the model code of conduct to apply to members of relevant authorities will be revoked.


·  The requirement for local authorities to have standards committees will be abolished.


·  The Standards Board for England will be abolished.


·  The First-tier Tribunal (Local Government Standards in England), the independent judicial tribunal established as a disciplinary body to hear and determine references and appeals concerning the conduct of local authority councillors, will lose its jurisdiction over the conduct of local authority members.


The Committee noted that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in its announcement advising that the current standards regime was to be abolished in its entirety had stated that


councillors will have to register certain personal interests in a publicly available register; this could include anything that could be reasonably regarded as likely to influence or affect their actions, conduct when on business for the   authority, or voting.”


The Director set out the transitional arrangements for considering; investigating and determining allegations of misconduct.  They would be in place from a fixed date (“the appointed day”) which was still to be determined but would be after the Bill had received Royal Assent.  It was noted that this Committee would remain established until the last complaint, which had been in the system up until the appointed day, had been dealt with.


The Government had indicated that it was committed to maintaining high standards of conduct in office and would ensure that, in the absence of a statutory code of conduct, councillors did not abuse their office for personal gain by putting their personal interests before those of the general community or local area that they represented. Members noted that they would continue to be required to register and declare personal interests and would not be allowed to use their personal position improperly for personal gain. The Government intended that wilful failure to comply with these requirements would constitute a criminal offence.  However, the requirement for local authorities to adopt a model code of conduct and for local authority members to abide by that code of conduct would be abolished but local authorities could, if they wished, adopt their own voluntary code of conduct.


The requirement to maintain a standards committee would be abolished but local authorities would be allowed, if they wished, to establish voluntary standards committees to consider complaints about the conduct of elected and co-opted members.  Such committees would, according to councils’ local constitutions, be able to censure but would not be able to suspend or disqualify members from council membership.


Members raised concerns that local standards committees may be ‘toothless’.  However, they also recognised an opportunity to work in partnership, by taking a regional approach and jointly constituting a Standards Committee made up of members, from across all of the Merseyside Authorities.  It was also considered appropriate to explore the possibility of producing a Merseyside Members’ Code of Conduct to which all of the Merseyside Authorities could sign up.  It was also proposed that Neighbouring Authorities could be requested to look into any complaints received about elected Members.


The Director advised the Committee that the proposals for a Merseyside approach to any new Standards regime could be explored once the Localism Bill had been enacted and the regulations that would underpin the new legislation became available.




(1)  the content of the report be noted;


(2)  the Monitoring Officer be requested to continue to examine the provisions of the Bill and present proposals to a future meeting of the Committee with regard to how the Council may respond to the Bill once it is enacted; and


(3)  the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management be requested to explore the possibility of constituting a Merseyside Standards Committee, made up of Members from all of the Merseyside Authorities, once the detail of the new legislation and the regulations that would underpin it were known, and bring a report to a future meeting of the Committee.

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