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Ethics review calls for greater transparency and new local powers to suspend councillors

New powers for local authorities to be able to suspend councillors who breach the code of conduct without allowances for up to six months have been recommended alongside a number of other ethical recommendations by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

In its review of local government ethical standards, published following a year-long review and consultation, the committee has called for council standards boards to be given more power to act on poor conduct from councillors.

The recommendations would give local authorities the power to suspend members for the “most serious or repeated breaches” or violations of the code of conduct – most likely relating to harassment, bullying, and failures to declare financial interests.

The first report of its kind since the Standards Board of England was abolished in 2012, it calls on councils across the UK to be give more powers in regards to transparency, enforcement, and for local authorities to retain ownership of their own codes of conducts.

Its recommendations include revised rules on declaring interests, gifts and hospitality, for the ‘independent person’ to be given a larger role, and introducing a right of appeal for suspended councillors to “enhance the impartiality and fairness of the process.”

Launching the report, the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Lord Evans said: “Our recommendations would enable councillors to be held to account effectively and would enhance the fairness and transparency of the standards process.

“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.

“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.”

Lord Evans also said there is a risk to the standards of conduct under the current system, and that all local authorities need to develop and maintain an organisational culture supportive of high ethical standards.

Top image: Royal United Services Institute


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