Punish bad behaviour in councils, says committee

31 Jan 19

Local authorities must be given powers to suspend councillors, says an independent advisory committee after finding “clear evidence” of misconduct.

A report by the committee on standards in public life says bullying, harassment and disruptive behaviour are issues at both principal authority level and at parish and town council level.

The committee wants councils to have powers to suspend councillors without allowances for up to six months.

Its report published yesterday draws on 319 responses to a consultation and also recommends that suspended councillors should have a right to appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Lord Evans, chair of the committee on standards in public life, said: “High standards of conduct in local government are needed to demonstrate that those decisions are taken in the public interest and to maintain the public’s confidence.

“The evidence we received supports the view that the vast majority of councillors and officers maintain high standards of conduct. There is, however, clear evidence of misconduct by some councillors.

“There is also evidence of persistent or repeated misconduct by a minority of councillors.”

The report also recommended revising the rules on declaration of interests, gifts and hospitality.

Paul Dossett, head of local government at Grant Thornton UK, warned that ethical standards in local government have not been updated to reflect growing complexity of the sector.

He said: “The framework for ethical standards has not kept up to date with the increasing complexity of local government. Since 2011 there has been a proliferation of new investments and company structures, leaving the sector exposed in some cases. 

“The general decline in political discourse, so obvious in Westminster, has also crept into parts of local government, increasing the risk that officers will be pressured into unethical decisions.”

Last year, PF reported that more than half of respondents to CIPFA survey on ethical standards had come under pressure to act in a professionally unethical way

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