Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Taunton Deane Borough Council (L 170)

1. Taunton Deane Borough Council is a district council based in Taunton, Somerset. The Council has had a Standards Committee since prior to the Local Government Act 2000 and the Council takes ethical governance in the authority very seriously.

2. Taunton Deane’s Standards Committee has already sent a response to these proposals but the issue of the abolition of the standards regime has now also been considered by its Corporate Governance Committee who would like to make these additional comments.

3. The Corporate Governance Committee mirrors the concerns of its Standards Committee regarding the abolition of the mandatory code of conduct. It was extremely concerned about this and felt that the code has been helpful to members on the whole.

4. The Committee was also concerned that the proposals in the bill were to remove the current sanctions from the Standards Committee and felt that even if an authority did have a voluntary code that it would be seen to have ‘no teeth’ which was not helpful in satisfying the duty to ensure high ethical standards within the Council. The Committee were very much in favour of keeping the sanctions and allowing self regulation this is in line with the spirit of localism which is what this bill is meant to be about.

5. The Committee was also very concerned that the abolition of a mandatory code would allow parishes to not sign up to a voluntary code and this would do little for public confidence in the integrity of decision making at this level.

6. The Committee supported the views of the Standards Committee that this would create real inconsistencies in the processes and again was not helpful.

7. There were also concerns regarding the criminal sanctions being proposed for the failure to register interests and they felt that this was too draconian a measure when the reality was that councillors were generally very good about doing this and there was a concern that it may deter people off being a councillor.

8. The Corporate Governance Committee it would be grateful if the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee would take its views into account and if further information is required it would be more than happy to assist.

March 2011