Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Monitoring Officer, Harrogate Borough Council (LGA 25)


  My Council is very concerned about the decision to impose upon district councils (of all types) the responsible authority status for the ethics of parishes. There was no warning and no consultation, the legislation was brought into force 12 months before the National Standards Board was up and running. It is barely functioning yet. The Government and Standards Board have given no guidance to Monitoring Officers on what they expect. Both this Code and that for Borough Councils were issued on the same day, seven months late, so instead of being able to help parishes to get through the adoption procedures, Monitoring Officers are trying to deal with their own Councils and parishes at the same time. In our case some of the parishes are ahead of us and making mistakes.

  This is not due to any lack of action on Harrogate Borough Council's part since we have responded quickly to appoint a Standards Sub-Committee with five parish representatives. Those representatives have made it quite clear that many Parish Councillors consider the requirement to register general interest with the Council's Monitoring Officer a serious imposition on people who are effectively unpaid voluntary workers. Many are, apparently, considering their position. If this view is repeated nationally there could be large scale resignations from Parish Councils over the next few months.

  There are 75 (soon to be 76) parish councils within the Harrogate District and approximately 700 Councillors. It is clearly a massive task to provide training as required under section 54 and 55 of the Local Government Act 2000 to this number of Parish Councillors and at the same time train Borough Council Members and also create the necessary supporting systems required for the registration of interests.

  So far as we are aware, absolutely no additional resources have been provided by Government in order to allow District Councils like Harrogate to discharge these tasks and staff are being bombarded with many, entirely legitimate but time consuming inquiries from Parish Clerks.

  It is hard to see how these additional responsibilities can be discharged to the standard that we set ourselves in Harrogate or perhaps more pertinently, how the present state of affairs is likely to improve public confidence in the ethical standards operating within parish councils.

Miss F J Hildred

Director of Administration and Monitoring Officer,

Harrogate Borough Council

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