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Future of the Standards Board Regime - STROUD DISTRICT COUNCIL

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Future of the Standards Board Regime - STROUD DISTRICT COUNCIL Powered By Docstoc
					        STROUD DISTRICT COUNCIL                                          AGENDA
                                                                         ITEM NO
            STANDARDS COMMITTEE

                      19 JULY 2010                                               3
Report Title               THE FUTURE OF THE STANDARDS BOARD REGIME

Purpose of Report          To advise the Standards Committee further of the
                           Government’s proposals to abolish the Standards Board
                           Regime and to consider how the Committee may wish to
                           respond.

Decision(s)                Resolved: that representations regarding the
                           Government’s proposals to abolish the Standards
                           Board regime be made as soon as possible to
                           appropriate parties, so as to ensure the continuation
                           of a strong ethical dimension in Local Authority
                           Corporate Governance.

Consultation and           N/a
Feedback
Financial Implications     There are no financial implications arising directly from
                           this report. Any costs are contained within existing
                           budgets.

                           Des Knight, Interim Finance Manager
                           Tel: 01453 754344
                           Email: des.knight@stroud.gov.uk

Legal Implications         These are contained in the report

                           Colin Spencer, Monitoring Officer
                           Tel: (01453) 754386
                           E:mail: colin.spencer@stroud.gov.uk

Report Author              Colin Spencer, Monitoring Officer
                           Tel: (01453) 754386
                           E:mail: colin.spencer@stroud.gov.uk

Portfolio Holder           N/A

Options                    One option is to merely await publication of the
                           Government’s proposals in a bill to be presented to
                           Parliament in the Autumn and to respond at that time.
                           An alternative is to seek to influence future proposals
                           now whether alone or in conjunction with other local
                           authorities.



Standards Committee                     1                                Agenda item 3
19 July 2010
Performance                  N/A
Management Follow Up
Background Papers/           The Coalition: Our programme for Government
Appendices                   (Statement dated 20 May 2010)

                             Statement and Letters from Standards for England.

                             Report of the Monitoring Officer to the Standards
                             Committee meeting held on 29 June 2010.


Background

1. At its meeting on 29 June 2010 the Standards Committee gave initial
   consideration to a report by the Monitoring Officer relating to the Government’s
   proposals to ‘abolish the Standards Board Regime’. Unfortunately not all
   Members of the Committee were able to be present on that occasion and both for
   that reason and to permit the gathering of further information and the production
   of a possible representational document, it was decided to defer further
   consideration of the matter to a future meeting.

2. It was nevertheless the initial view of the Standards Committee that even if the
   Standards Board for England is abolished (which would appear to be a settled
   politically intent of the Coalition Government) then every effort should be made to
   both retain and develop the ethical standards regime including compliance with
   mandatory Codes of Conduct, registration of financial and other interests,
   training, sanctions and other elements of part 3 of the Local Government Act
   2000. This would include the retention of Standards Committees.

3. For the convenience of Members, many of the paragraphs which follow reiterate
   the contents of the previous Monitoring Officer report.

4. On 20 May 2010 the coalition government published a statement entitled ‘The
   Coalition: Our programme for Government’. This included a single line item
   namely:-

   ‘To abolish the Standards Board Regime’

5. It is understood that the Government’s proposals will be included in a
   Decentralisation and Localism Bill which will be published in Autumn 2010. So
   far as is known this Bill has not yet been drafted and endeavours made to
   ascertain exactly what is intended have consequently been unsuccessful.

6. Three short letters/statements have been issued by Standards for England (The
   Standards Board) since the Government’s announcement. It is clear that the
   Standards Board too are awaiting further information. The Board has advised
   that for the present Standards Committees should continue with their normal
   activities. This of course includes the consideration, investigation and
   determination of complaints. However, because of the future uncertainty of the
   ethical standards regime the Annual Standards Board Assembly which was to
   take place in Birmingham on 18/19 October 2010 has been cancelled. Stroud
   had appointed 4 representatives (3 Members of the Standards Committee
   together with the Monitoring Officer) to attend that conference. The registration
Standards Committee                       2                               Agenda item 3
19 July 2010
   fees which have already been paid will be returned.

7. The ethical standards framework including the creation of the Standards Board
   for England and the obligation on principal Councils to appoint Standards
   Committees was contained in Part III of the Local Government Act 2000 and the
   Stroud Standards Committee was appointed the following year.

8. Prior to the 2000 Act there was no comprehensive system regulating Standards
   of Local Government Conduct although provisions were in place for the
   declaration of pecuniary interest with potential criminal law sanctions for any
   breach. The pre-2000 controls were by no means comprehensive in form and
   Councillors were not, for instance, required to subscribe to any Code of Conduct.
   There was no regulation other than that which might be afforded by the general
   law over most of the matters contained in the Code of Conduct, nor was there the
   equivalent of a comprehensive register of Member Interests available for public
   inspection.

9. A bald statement merely to abolish ‘The Standards Board Regime’ without any
   further detail raises some very fundamental questions indeed about the future of
   ethical standards in Local Government. These questions include the following:

   •   If it is the Government’s intention to abolish the Standards Board, what if
       anything will replace it?

   •   Does the undertaking to abolish ‘the Standards Board regime’ mean that
       Councils will no longer be obliged (or even entitled) to appoint local Standards
       Committees?

   •   Is it intended to retain the existing Code of Conduct? If not, what uniform
       system will be in place (if any) to identify both to Councillors and the public
       the standards of conduct which can be expected of elected Councillors?

   •   Will there be any requirement to maintain a register of Members’ Interest and
       if so what will this contain?

   •   What sanctions will available for breaches of any retained Code and who will
       enforce these?

   •   When will the proposed change take effect?

10. Government has invited public comment about its outline proposals generally and
    the Standards Committee may well consider it appropriate to make
    representations prior to legalisation being formulated rather than simply to
    respond to proposals set out in the Bill when published. The object of such a
    course of action is to endeavour to influence event proactively rather than to
    merely respond to detailed proposals, when the freedom to influence may be
    more circumscribed.

11. It is suggested that views should be expressed to the following:

   a. The Local Government Association

   b. The Constituency Members of Parliament

Standards Committee                        3                                 Agenda item 3
19 July 2010
   c. The Standards Board for England

   d. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

12. At the last meeting of the Committee the Monitoring Officer was asked to
    ascertain the views of other Gloucestershire local authorities. He suspects that
    some Councils have not yet considered the Government’s proposals in any detail
    but he will update Members at the meeting so far as he can ascertain it.
    However, it is understood that the County Council Standards Committee has
    already discussed the Government’s proposals.

13. A paper which could form the basis of any representations which the Committee
    considers should be made at this time will follow separately.




Standards Committee                      4                              Agenda item 3
19 July 2010

				
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