Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by John Mann (L 28)

I have been the independent chair of the London Borough of Brent Standards Committee since its inception in 2002 and make these comments in the light of that experience.

As an independent member of the council I am subject to the same Code as elected councillors.

The Committee had initially to challenge the view that councillors’ behaviour could be dealt with discreetly and satisfactorily by the party whips.

I have had to maintain the Committee’s and my own independence in the face of pressure from more than one party group leader.

I have no doubt that the existence of the Code and of Standards Committees with an independent chair,  and the associated training of councillors,  have led to higher awareness of the issues and higher standards of behaviour.  Our ability to impose sanctions such as training,  public apology and in one case suspension,  has publicised the importance of high standards of conduct and has had a salutary effect on the whole council

Of the actual cases my committee has had to deal with I would rate the failure to declare a relative’s interest in the proposed close of a local post office about which the council as a whole was considering making representations as less heinous than public verbal abuse of a relatively junior officer  or obtaining personal advantages from holding public office.  But apparently only the failure to declare an interest may incur some penalty.

Some, perhaps all,  councils have procedures to deal with complaints about the council’s policies,  administration,  and behaviour. From my experience as a member of the public using every stage of my council’s complaints procedures they are robust and thorough even when the outcome is not what I would have chosen. I see no reason why these procedures should not be extended to cover complaints against individual councillors, provided that at some point independent people are involved.

January 2011