Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Northamptonshire County Council Standards Committee (L 75)

1. Localism Bill proposals to abolish the Standards Regime

1.1 I refer to the proposed Localism Bill before Parliament, which includes proposals to abolish the Standards Board regime, the National Code of Conduct and Standards Committees in their present form.

1.2 Northamptonshire County Council’s Standards Committee agrees it is essential that a framework of local accountability continues to be in place in which the public can have confidence .The Committee therefore fully supports the recent press statement by Sir Christopher Kelly on behalf of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

1.3 To rely on the courts or elections to deal with unacceptable behaviour will not increase public confidence in local government as much bad behaviour will not constitute a criminal offence and could only affect one or two of the electorate.

1.4 We would request that the Committee would take the following into account when considering this portion of the bill;

· That a National Code of Conduct be established so that everyone knows what is necessary to promote and maintain high standards. This would prevent any confusion for members who under the present proposals could have different codes when serving on parish, district and county councils.

· Standards Committees should be retained as a requirement and should be chaired by independent members.

· Steps should be taken to simplify the local standards framework, which currently can be bureaucratic. However, it is important that the framework continue to be accessible and does not dilute the importance of a robust complaints framework.

· That clear guidance is provided for members on the grounds to invoke

· If it is agreed that Standards for England is abolished, it is important that the body which replaces it maintains the skillset to deal with and advise on the code of conduct in an effective and efficient manner. This for example could be undertaken by the LGA to complement its ethical audit roles.

February 2011