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Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many cases reported to the Local Government Standards Board in each of the last three years were disposed of (a) directly and (b) through reference to the adjudication panel; how many were found proven (i) by the Standards Board and (ii) by the adjudication panel; and how many were dismissed as unproven. 
|Allegations received (number)||2,948||3,566||3,861|
|Disposed of directly(51)(number)||2,059||3,077||(53)4,169|
|Referred to adjudication panel (number)||110||89||111|
|Percentage where ethical standards officers' findings upheld||97||97||86|
|Referred to local standards committees (number)||(52)n/a||58||89|
|Percentage where ethical standards officers' findings upheld||n/a||95||94|
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister in how many cases the decision of the Standards Board and adjudication panel has been challenged in the courts (a) successfully and (b) unsuccessfully in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Woolas: Only one determination made by the adjudication panel for England was challenged in the courts in 200203. This was unsuccessful. There were no challenges in 200304. There were five challenges in 200405. Four of these were unsuccessful. The remaining challenge was partially successful in that the adjudication panel's finding was upheld but the sanction it had imposed was reduced.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average length of time was between a complaint being made to the Standards Board and (a) being found proven and fully disposed of and (b) being dismissed in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. 
|Where cases were not investigated, or where no evidence of a breach was found, or where no further action was required (days)||24||22||13|
|Where ethical standards officer conducted an investigation and made a finding that a breach of the code had occurred (months)||4.25||7.34||9.64|
The lower average for the completion of those cases where a breach was found in 200203 reflected a number of relatively straightforward cases in that year, relating to parish councillors refusing to fill in a register of interests. The higher average in 200405 reflects the efforts the Standards Board made last year to clear a backlog of outstanding older cases.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the estimated cost to public funds was of the Standards Board and Adjudication Panel case against Westminster City Councillor Mr. Paul Dimoldenberg; how long the case lasted, from the date of the complaint to Standards Board to the end of the adjudication panel hearing; what the outcome was; and if he will make a statement. 
The Standards Board is unable to give precise costs for any one investigation. The precise cost of a case will depend upon a number of factors, such as
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its inherent complexity, the number of witnesses involved or extent of representations made by parties or their legal advisers.
However, the Standards Board for England estimates that the current average cost to the board of an investigation into allegations of a breach of the code of conduct by members of relevant authorities is around £5,000 per case. The average costs of an adjudication panel hearing was £1,850 in the year 200405.
The case concerning Councillor Dimoldenberg lasted for just under two years from the date of initial referral to the Standards Board. The outcome was that Councillor Dimoldenberg was found to have breached the code of conduct through disclosing confidential information, but no sanction was imposed.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much Westminster City Council has recovered from Dame Shirley Porter as a result of the findings of the District Auditor and House of Lords against her; what assessment he had made of the prospects for recovering sums due (a) prior to and (b) since 30 June 2003; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effects of the operation of the Local Government Standards Board on individuals' willingness to stand for election as local government councillors; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not aware of evidence to suggest that the operation of the Standards Board has substantially impacted on individuals' willingness to stand as local councillors. Our consultation on the introduction of a code of conduct for councillors received strong support.
The Government believe it is right that local councillors should observe certain minimum standards of conduct, and that the small number of councillors who behave in ways that are not compatible with high standards of public service should be subject to investigation and censure.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make provision for councillors facing serious complaints to the Standards Board under the Local Government Code of Conduct to receive financial support towards their legal costs; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) Order 2004 provides for relevant authorities to indemnify members and officers for personal liability arising from actions or decisions taken by them in the course of their official duties.
Among the circumstances in which an authority might decide to grant such an indemnity are where costs are incurred by a member in relation to the defence of proceedings under Part 3 of the Local Government Act 2000, relating to allegations of breaches in the code of
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conduct for local authority members. Any such indemnity is limited by the Order to cases in which the member is found not to have breached the code. It is for authorities to decide whether they wish to provide indemnity in a particular case.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will require the Local Government Standards Board to exercise proportionality, by balancing the likely cost of an inquiry with the seriousness of the complaint, when investigating a complaint under the Local Government Code of Conduct; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: The Standards Board for England fully recognises the need for proportionate use of public funds in its handling of allegations received, while ensuring that all investigations are conducted thoroughly and with integrity. Only the more serious complaints are investigated, as well as those that may set important legal precedents or which have the potential to damage public confidence in local government.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average cost of a Local Government Standards Board inquiry, including costs of any Adjudication Panel, were in each of the last three years, broken down by cases (a) found proven and (b) dismissed. 
Mr. Woolas: The average cost to the Standards Board of an investigation into allegations of a breach of the Code of Conduct by members of relevant authorities in 200304 was £4,145, and the average cost in 200405 was around £5,000. The average cost of an Adjudication Panel hearing in 200304 was £1,790, and in 200405 was £1,850. The information held by the Standards Board does not differentiate between cases where there were findings that breaches of the code were made, and where there were not. Information in respect of average costs of Standards Board investigations and Adjudication Panel hearings in 200203 is not available.
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