Appendix 1: Local Government Standards
Regimes in England |
The Committee has asked me to prepare a note outlining
the ethical standards frameworks that apply to local government
in England. This note seeks to do that by detailing the evolution
of the local government standards regime and then addressing some
of the themes raised in other evidence submitted to the Committee.
This note draws on research into the evolution of the standards
system in English local government, and on my experience with
Oxford City Council (a district council of 48 elected councillors
representing 151,900 residents), as an Independent Member of its
Standards Committee (2008-12) and as an Independent Person of
the local authority (2012-), and I am grateful to two of my colleagues
from 2008-12 for their helpful comments; however, the views expressed
here are my own and represent neither the views of Oxford City
Council nor of its Standards Committee past or present.
Background: trust in local government standards
Local government in England has, by international
standards, generally enjoyed very high standards of conduct on
the part of elected Members.
The Poulson scandal led to two Royal Commissions and a National
Code of Local Government Conduct, first issued in 1975, which
was applied to elected councillors in England, Wales, and Scotland.
From 1990, that Code had a statutory footing, and breaches of
the Code were treated as maladministration. When, in the mid-1990s,
the Nolan Committee (Committee on Standards in Public Life, CSPL)
turned its attention to Local Government, they found that "scarcely
anyone had a good word to say" about this National Code.
Nolan found that local government was constrained by rules and
by a system that lacked clarity: the National Code bore "little
or no resemblance" to the best practice formula, which the
Nolan Committee had already developed, i.e.:
codes should be short, clear statements of principles,
not rule books; the organisation within which a code operates
should have an important role in revising it, or adapting it to
its needs; sanctions should be clear, appropriate, and consistent;
there should be a firm commitment to educating and training people
in the code so they understand why it is there, as well as what
Moreover, Nolan cautioned that the detailed rules-based
arrangements in force at that time was in fact a risk to standards
rather than a support for them: "We have commented in our
previous two reports that attempting to enforce good conduct through
detailed rules, especially where these are based on the presumption
that people will naturally misbehave, can itself contribute to
wrongdoing. Nowhere is this more evident than in local government."
A new Code and a new standards regime - a fresh start - was needed.
That new standards regime came into being in 2001,
when the Local Government Act 2000, which set out a new ethical
framework for local authority elected members in England and Wales,
came into effect.
The Government published a model Code of Conduct, and local authorities
were required, as a minimum, to adopt all elements of this model
Code into their own Code of Conduct. A non-departmental public
body, the Standards Board for England (SBE, later Standards for
England) was established to promote and maintain high standards
of conduct and to receive and investigate complaints of misconduct
by councillors. Separately (to ensure a distinction between the
investigation and adjudication of standards complaints) an Adjudication
Panel for England was formed. Each principal local authority had
to create a standards committee, tasked with promoting and maintaining
high standards of conduct and facilitating Member engagement with
the Code of Conduct.
Nolan had argued for the local regulation of standards
issues; but the Government had preferred that complaints should
be handled at arm's length - i.e. by the SBE - not least to ensure
consistent complaints-handling. Although some investigations by
SBE were handed back to local authorities for determination, the
centralisation of investigations led to much criticism for SBE:
substantial delays in resolution of complaints; marginalisation
of local procedures; over-weighting of trivial complaints and
lack of local knowledge; inability to resolve complaints through
mediation or informal means.
The 2001 regime was highly-centralised.
Local resolution of standards complaints finally
came into force in May 2008. The Local Government and Public Involvement
in Health Act 2007 had amended the Local Government Act 2000 by
providing for the local reception and assessment of allegations
of the breach of a council's Code of Conduct, and the Standards
Committee (England) Regulations 2008 outlined requirements for
the conduct of a council's members and requirements for handling
problems. Councils were required to augment their Standards Committees
in order to equip them to take a much more pro-active role in
promoting standards and in ruling on questions of ethical conduct.
Although the standards regime was set down in legislation, and
the Standards Board's role in setting standards and promoting
good practice was often appreciated, there was nonetheless substantial
variation in local practice. The number of Parishes within an
authority's remit, as well as the local political attitude to
petty or tit-for-tat complaints, resulted in variance in the volume
of complaints and the complexities of resolving them; some elected
members in some authorities saw standards committees as a nuisance.
Under the Standards Board regime, some council Standards
Committees took on functions other than monitoring standards of
conduct, for example the oversight and review of the council's
Codes of Practice, or the monitoring of service and other complaints
made to the council. Such activities meant that a Standards Committee
understood more fully the workings of the council as a whole,
meant that external input was brought to bear in reviewing and
analysing these issues, ensured that the Standards Committee met
regularly even when no adjudication on complaints against councillors
was required, and helped raise the profile of the Standards Committee
elsewhere within the local authority.
There had been substantial criticism of the 2001
Standards Board regime. For example, Eric Pickles, as Shadow Minister
for Local Government in 2005, called for the abolition of the
Standards Board for England. He preferred to rely on existing
mechanisms relating to financial accountability (through District
Auditors) and service provision (the ombudsman), alongside prosecution
in the courts for breaches of the criminal law.
Some of this discontent related to delays and other failures which
were remedied under the 2008 changes (such as slow resolution
and the disempowerment of local Standards Committees). Nonetheless,
the Coalition Government's Programme for Government committed
to ending the Standards Board regime, which it regarded as "a
system of nuisance complaints and petty, sometimes malicious,
allegations of councillor misconduct that sapped public confidence
in local democracy."
This long-term criticism resulted in clauses of the Localism Act
2011, which abolished SBE and the national model Code of Conduct,
and imposed new requirements on local authorities and councillors;
but the "lighter-touch" regulatory regime has not been
Codes of Conduct
Model Codes of Conduct for different levels of local
government (district, parish) were issued by the Government in
2001. A review on behalf of the SBE in 2005 indicated that "the
code enjoys broad support, although significant issues remain".
An SBE review in 2006 resulted in substantial changes to the model
Code being introduced in 2007. A particular criticism, which was
addressed, was the requirement to withdraw from discussion of
matters on which a Member has a prejudicial interest. The 2007
Model Code was designed to promote transparency and prevent conflicts
of interest (through its treatment of personal and pecuniary interests
and questions of improper advantage), and to advance the fair
and effective functioning of the authority (through its strictures
against bullying, the compromising of officers, and the obstruction
of access to information, and its underlying of principles of
equality and anti-discrimination law).
To some extent, a single and mandatory code was helpful.
It meant that councillors who were elected members of more than
one council were subject to the same standards regimes in each.
It enabled Independent Members and council officers from different
authorities to exchange information and best practice. SBE was
able to provide training and guidance across the English local
authorities, which was generally helpful and much-appreciated
by the standards committee. A consistent approach to standards
helped foster the development of a national standards culture.
Since 2012, local authorities have been required
to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by their Members.
There is no national model Code. Instead, it is mandatory for
local authorities to adopt principles-based regulation - a Code
of their own choosing, based on the Seven (Nolan) Principles of
Public Life. The Department for Communities and Local Government
has published an "illustrative text" and other bodies
(notably the Local Government Association and the National Association
of Local Councils) have also published model codes. Certain matters
of financial misconduct were made criminal offences.
Elected Members' public lives and private lives
Under the 2001 Code, most provisions of the Code
did not have effect on actions undertaken "other than in
an official capacity", except that conduct which brought
the Member's office into disrepute were covered by the code whether
made in an "official capacity, or any other circumstance".
The leading case involved comments made by Ken Livingstone
(then Mayor of London) to a journalist having left an official
function. The allegation - with which the Adjudication Panel agreed
- was that Mr Livingstone's conduct had breached the provision
that "A Member must not, in his official capacity, or in
any other circumstance, conduct himself in a manner which could
reasonably be regarded as bringing his office or authority into
disrespect". The finding in the case was that Mr Livingstone
was not acting in his official capacity, as he had left the official
function, but that he had nonetheless breached the provision.
However, in the High Court Mr Livingstone argued that the Code
should not cover conduct from a Member's private life. The High
Court ruled that the Code could apply to private acts when they
were linked to the position as a councillor, and therefore that
unlawful conduct was not necessarily covered by the Code. Collins
J observed in his judgement in the case: "There is a danger
in regarding any misconduct as particularly affecting the reputation
of the office rather than the man.
Misuse of the office
can obviously bring disrepute on the office, but personal misconduct
will be unlikely to do so."
The Committee on Standards in Public Life's Tenth
Report, published a year before the Livingstone case was concluded
(2005), had highlighted the difficulties of making a distinction
under the Code between private and public life, commenting that:
The relationship between standards of conduct
by public office-holders acting in their official capacity, and
conduct in their private lives has been a difficult and contentious
issue over the years. The Committee in its First Report drew a
significant difference between, for example, sexual misconduct
and financial misbehaviour. We indicated that while rules could
be usefully drawn up for the latter, they could not for the former.
This has remained the case in all of its subsequent reports and
recommendations. The Committee has concentrated on standards of
conduct in respect of public, rather than private life except
where private interests, financial or otherwise could give rise
to a potential conflict of interest with an office-holders' public
role. The public attitudes research published by the Committee
indicated that the public place a lower priority on public office-holders
setting a good standard in their private lives than they do in
respect of public conduct.
When the Code was revised in 2007, it was clarified
that the disrepute provisions covered serious criminal offences
conducted in the Member's private capacity. The broader question
of how "disrepute" ought to be defined was left unaddressed.
For the Code to be engaged other than by acts of a serious criminal
nature, the Member complained of, at the time of the alleged misconduct,
had to be holding the office of councillor and also to be acting
in her or his official capacity.
Leadership on ethical standards
The changes to the ethical framework from May 2008
put Standards Committees "at the heart of" the system.
Standards Committees generally met six times each year to receive
investigatory reports and monitor standards more generally.
With the augmentation of the Independent (Lay) Membership of Standards
Committees, the Committees came to have a key role in providing
ethical leadership to councils. At Oxford City Council, Independent
Members of the Standards Committee showed leadership by attending
the standards training given to Members; officials ensured that
training was run across multiple parallel sessions to maximise
the ability of councillors to attend, with further dates being
offered; councillors themselves showed commitment to that training
by adopting a rule that failure to complete the Code of Conduct
training by a specified date resulted in the Councillor having
her or his basic allowance cut by 15 per cent until she or he
had completed the training.
The relationship between the Committee and the party
groups was also essential in developing the standards culture.
In Oxford, the Independent Chair and Vice-Chair, the Monitoring
Officer, and party Group Leaders, met together informally every
six months. It was important to get buy-in from the groups as
to the importance of ethical conduct generally and the standards
system in particular. There was no formal agenda, no minutes were
taken; but it was an opportunity to refract through recent cases
and to share good practice. It was not a case of saying "come
on, this is how you behave". Elected Members of the Standards
Committee could also be a conduit for generating understanding
between the Committee and Councillors. Ethical leadership was
a partnership between the Standards Committee (especially through
its Lay Members), officers, and key elected Members.
That Leadership is essential for the good functioning
of local government standards can also be seen as a weakness of
the system. In its 2013 report, the CSPL welcomed the requirement
for local authorities to adopt a Code of Conduct based on the
Nolan Seven Principles of Public Life; but observed that "Due
to the emphasis on local ownership of standards we would expect
the new regime, like the previous one, to function well in those
areas where party leaders are prepared to provide the necessary
leadership and example. It is likely to do less well where such
leadership is inadequate." 
This tendency for ethics regimes to work best where good standards
already exist was found by Cowell, Downe, and Morgan, in research
conducted in mid-2008 on the ethical framework for local government
in England, who observed the ethical framework had had a positive
impact on the ethical conduct of local politicians; but the nature
of this impact varies according to "the social, political
and organizational context of local government".
The attitudes of elected Members, and political groups, are crucial
to the effective functioning of any formal standards regime mechanisms.
In the period 2001-08, many local Standards Committees
included Lay Members, often coopted, but there were no requirements
for the inclusion of Lay Members. Research for SBE in 2005 found
that 66 per cent of Standards Committees were chaired by an Independent
Member and 28 per cent contained members of the local executive;
the composition of the committees ranged from three to 15 members,
with the average being seven members including two or three Independent
in 2005 urged legislation to require that Standards Committees
have both an Independent Member as chair, and a majority of Independent
Members as a whole.
Some local authorities, however, worried about finding enough
suitable candidates to fill these roles.
From 2008-12, Standards Committees were required
to comprise at least 25% Independent (Lay) Members (all of whom
had a vote); no more than one elected Member could be from the
authority's Executive, and at least two Members must be from local
parish councils - nationally, the bulk of complaints related to
Parish Councillors, and there was a utility in having Parish members
of a standards committee, both to provide local knowledge and
to engage parishes with standards issues. Oxford City Council
came to have 12 Members on its Standards Committee: 5 elected,
5 Independent, 2 Parish; previously-coopted Lay Members themselves
went through the proper recruitment practice under the new regime
and new Lay Members were recruited. A Standards Committee and
any sub-committees had to be chaired by an Independent (Lay) Member;
their quorum was three. Some local authorities were able to recruit
multiple, high-calibre Independent Members; others struggled to
find volunteers to fill their 25% minimum quota.
The Localism Act abolished the role of Independent
Members of Standards Committees, but created the role of Independent
Person. Each local authority must appoint, by a proper process,
at least one Independent Person, who can be consulted by the Monitoring
Officer, and also by the accused Member and the Standards Committee
(if the authority has one) itself. The role of the Independent
Person is advisory, and does not have a vote on any council committee.
The reduction of lay involvement in the new standards
regime, compared with its predecessor, has been criticised by
CSPL, which reported of the requirement to consult with an Independent
Person that "We doubt that this will be sufficient to provide
assurance that justice is being done and, equally important, that
it is seen to be done." 
The investigatory process
Under the Standards Board regime from 2001 to 2008,
all complaints against local councillors were made directly to
SBE in the first instance. SBE's Adjudication Panel determined
whether or not to investigate. SBE informed an elected Member
that they were subject to a complaint only after its initial assessment
had taken place (i.e. once the decision whether or not to refer
for investigation had been completed). That was in line with
other bodies' practice at the time; and there were arguments both
for and against earlier notification. Yet, it was broadly seen
as unfair not to inform an elected Member when others were told.
Any investigation was carried out on behalf of SBE by one of
its Ethical Standards Officers (sometimes helped by local authorities;
Monitoring Officers), though some cases were thereafter referred
back to the local authority for determination.
From 2008 to 2012, under local determination, complaints
were received in the first instance by the local authority concerned.
Complaints had to be put in writing and could be made in hard
copy or by e-mail. Anonymous complaints could not be considered
unless there was accompanying documentary or photographic material
giving evidence of an especially serious matter. A complaint,
on being received, would be referred to an Assessment Panel (in
effect, a sub-committee of the Standards Committee), comprising
two Lay Members and one elected Member. This would determine,
in effect, if there was a case to answer (does the Code apply?
if so, does it merit investigation?). If there was, it could refer
for "alternative action" (resolution without investigation
- e.g. Member training; reconciliation between a Member and a
complainant; etc - falling short of a formal sanction following
a full investigation) or authorise an investigation. The Assessment
Panel could decline to consider complaints which appeared to be
outside the scope of the Code, or not sufficiently serious, or
were untimely, or lacked sufficient information, or appeared to
be malicious or politically-motivated. However, it was important,
too, that the Assessment Panel took a complete view of whether
the conduct alleged might constitute a breach of the Code: it
would not have been right to require that a complainant specify
the particular aspect of the Code which had been breached (though
most attempted to do so). A separate similarly-constituted Review
Panel could conduct a re-hearing of the Assessment Panel's decision
if it was appealed. If the case was referred for investigation,
members of these Panels were not disbarred from adjudicating on
the final report, since they had made no finding about the substance
of the allegation.
Where a matter was referred for investigation, the
Monitoring Officer (a council official, usually a senior lawyer
or similar) or someone appointed by them would carry out that
investigation and make a report to the full Standards Committee
for adjudication, and if necessary determination of sanction.
Councils could outsource their investigations, for example to
neighbouring local authorities' officers, to avoid an internal
conflict of interest or to provide the necessary administrative
capacity to ensure a timely investigation. The role of the Monitoring
Officer, and their relationship with the Standards Committee,
was crucial not only in resolving standards complaints but in
promoting compliance with the Code and so avoiding complaints
in the first place: Cowell, Downe, and Morgan, found that, overall,
"compliance with the code was enhanced where councillors
trusted the person responsible for overseeing the ethical framework,
and the judgements that they made."
Some Monitoring Officers nationally had been concerned
by a potential conflict of duty between their two duties relating
to the standards process after devolution from the Standards Board:
(a) to advise the Council and individual elected members about
appropriate standards of conduct; (b) to advise the Standards
Committee, especially in relation to alleged breaches of the Code
of Conduct, and to investigate such alleged breaches. To avoid
this, some Monitoring Officers chose to farm out specific advice
in response to individuals' requests for guidance to junior colleagues
(so as to avoid the risk, during an investigation, of being called
to adjudicate on their own advice) whilst retaining a leadership
role in general standards training.
From 2012, local authorities are no longer required
to have a Standards Committee, and the role of the Assessment
and Review Panels has been discontinued. The Monitoring Officer
will often consult the Independent Persons before taking a view
on whether or not to take no action, to resolve matters informally,
or to refer the case for investigation; but she or he may decide
to act alone at the initial stage (the Monitoring Officer must
consult the Independent Persons following a formal investigation).
A formal investigation may result in a hearing before a committee
of the authority (the Standards Committee where one exists). Some
local authorities have established other mechanisms, for example
having a Standards Panel, composed of an Independent Person and
others who are not Members, to consider an investigation report
and to advise the relevant committee.
Support for Members investigated
Support for Members accused of a breach of the Code
has, for the most part, been informal (peer support from their
fellow Members), although they were not barred from seeking legal
advice. Under the 2012 regime, an accused Member may, additionally,
consult with one or more of the local authority's Independent
Persons to seek their advice; but the need for Independent Persons
to remain objective means that they cannot represent or otherwise
make a case on behalf of an accused Member.
Conduct of hearings
Under both the 2008 and the 2012 regimes, where a
case resulted in a hearing to consider an investigation report,
the accused could attend the hearing and make representations
to the Standards Committee, or make representations in writing.
Witnesses could be called, and examined, as required. That Committee
was required, before 2012, to have an Independent Member Chair
and a substantial Independent membership. Since 2012 hearings
take place before Standards Committees (where they exist), which
are required to be politically-balanced and to have no voting
Independent (Lay) Members: such committees, however well they
function, are open to the criticism that they can be perceived
as being regular, politically-constituted, committees.
Holding hearings in public.
Nolan's 1997 recommendation included that Standards Committees
should hear cases in public (with their deliberations in private);
a disciplinary hearing should have before it a written report
prepared by an officer; affected parties should have a right to
From 2008-12, guidance from SBE advised that, in
most cases, the public interest in transparent decision-making
would outweigh the interest of an elected Member in limiting the
publication of an unproved allegation. Usually, therefore, a written
investigation report was circulated and considered at a meeting
of a Standards Committee held in public. The Standards Committee
could exclude the press and public from a meeting, and exempt
any papers from publication, by applying a public interest test,
and some cases were heard in closed session according to these
provisions. Since 2012, if a local authority holds standards committee
hearings, the same applies: the presumption is that they are to
be held in public, unless a public interest test can be satisfied.
Assessment Panel and Review Panel deliberations under
the 2008-12 regime were held in private. These private deliberations
of sub-panels containing lay and elected members, in the presence
of the Monitoring Officer, meant that members of the Standards
Committee learned a great deal: they were able to explore issues
and take advice, debating half-formed views in private before
coming to a collective view which was made public.
Appeals procedures. Under
the 2001 regime, a Member was able to appeal an Adjudication Panel
for England decision to the High Court; any case referred for
determination by a local authority's Standards Committee could
be appealed to the Adjudication Panel for England. Under the 2012
procedures, a determination can be appealed through the courts.
Until 2012, sanctions covered a very wide spectrum.
The sanctions (from 2001 imposed by SBE and from 2008 by the local
standards committee) included:(i) censure; (ii) restriction of
up to 6 months on a Member's access to the premises and/or resources
of the Authority; (iii) full, or partial, suspension of the Member
for up to 6 months; (iv) a requirement for a Member to make a
written apology to a specified sanction; (v) a recommendation
that a Member undergo training. The First Tier Tribunal could
suspend or disqualify a Member for up to 12 months.
Since the Localism Act, the only sanctions available
to a local standards committee are to censure the Member or to
remove that Member from a council committee. Some new matters
- deliberately withholding or misrepresenting a financial interest
- have been made specific criminal offences, and so are subject
to potential prosecution in the Magistrates' Courts by the Crown
Prosecution Service (these are summary only, and the maximum punishment
on conviction is a fine and/or disqualification from holding office
for up to 5 years). A survey of 74 local authorities conducted
in autumn 2013 showed that 85 per cent of authorities thought
the sanctions under the new regime were too weak, and only 2 per
cent thought they were too tough.
Under the Localism Act regime, there is a significant
lacuna in sanctions between censure and criminal prosecution.
CSPL observed in 2013 that "The last few years have seen
a number of examples of inappropriate behaviour which would not
pass the strict tests required to warrant a criminal prosecution,
but which deserves a sanction stronger than simple censure. While
censure may carry opprobrium in the political arena it is often
considered unacceptably lenient by the public relative to other
areas of their experience. Coercion of other members or officers
is one category of offence with which it will be difficult to
deal adequately under the new arrangements." 
Moreover, concerns have been expressed that the lack of "teeth"
of local authority standards committees undermines the standards
system and makes it less likely that an accused Member will cooperate
with any investigation.
Standards Committees and the Media
Under local determination from 2008-12, Standards
Committee findings were often published as "decision notices"
as soon as practicable after the end of the Committee's hearings,
or after an Assessment Panel had decided that there was no case
to investigate. They included: (i) the name of the Member complained
of; (ii) the name of the complainant; (iii) a summary of the complaint;
(iv) a summary of the process of investigation; (iv) the areas
of the Code engaged; (v) a written decision and the reasons for
this. On occasions when a motion to exclude press and public from
a hearing was being considered, good practice suggested that the
press should be permitted to attend the start of the meeting to
make representations arguing against such a motion; where such
a motion was passed, good practice suggested that a reasoned decision
notice and an appropriately-redacted version of any reports considered
at the hearing would be made available as soon after the meeting
as possible, and the press liaised with. Under the Localism Act's
procedures the outcomes of a committee's deliberations on a report
are usually be reported in a similar way.
It seems that membership and sanctions go hand-in-hand.
The risk of being subject to a substantial sanction forces the
engagement of all elected members against whom allegations are
levelled. A robust process with a substantial independent (lay)
element ensures that any findings or sanction cannot be dismissed
as a political stitch-up. Both effective sanctions and lay membership,
therefore, give the standards system credibility.
A common feature of the 2001 and 2012 regimes is
that they were introduced too quickly, with the regulations
and orders required to make the regimes functional being passed
only just before the new system came into effect (2012 regime)
or, indeed, some time afterwards (2001 regime).
The standards regimes may not have increased trust
in local government. Macauley and Lawton, noting that "standards
of conduct in English local government are generally very high"
and that 2004 MORI polling data found that 35 per cent of people
trusted local councillors, concluded that "significant reforms
have been implemented, with seemingly little effect on public
perceptions, to solve a problem that did not appear to exist in
the first place", though they noted that these data on the
trust of local councillors "are, of course, relative and
are an improvement on the 18% that trust politicians generally."
Overall, public distrust of local government had not, by 2006,
been reduced by the 2001 standards regime.
15 December 2014
Summary of Standards arrangements, 2001-12 and
|Local Government under the Standards Board for England, 2001-12
||Local Government at present: the impact of the Localism Act 2011
||Local Government Act 2000 laid out an ethical framework for circa 100,000 elected Members in England and circa 16,000 in Wales. Amended by Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007
||Localism Act 2011 substantially altered the prevailing Local Government standards regime in England and abolished the overarching regulatory quango Standards for England.
||2001 (amended by the Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007, which devolved assessment to councils from May 2008)
||1 July 2012|
|Code of Conduct
||Statutory Code of Conduct for Members (including Independent Members of the Standards Committee). Code is engaged only when a person is acting in an official capacity. Each local authority can, if it wishes, add requirements to (though not subtract from) the statutory code, although the Standards Board for England advised caution in this.
||Mandatory to adopt a local Code of Conduct based on the (Nolan) Seven Principles of Public Life. No statutory Code - local authorities are required to responsibility for determining their own Code which fulfils their statutory duty - although various examples have been published.
|Sanctions||Maximum sanction is suspension (or partial suspension) as a councillor for up to 6 months (originally 3 months). First-tier Tribunal can suspend for up to 12 months. Other sanctions include censure, apology in a specified form, reconciliation, requirement to complete training.
||Censure by local authority or removal from a committee are the only sanctions available.
||Required by the Act. Chaired by an Independent Member. Must have minimum of 1 Independent Member and 2 political members. If larger than 3 people, Committee must have minimum 25% Independent Members. Tasks are to assess initial complaints (i.e. does complaint merit investigation), review these assessments, and to conduct hearings following an investigation.
||Now no longer required. If a local authority chooses to have a Standards Committee its status is as any other committee and its membership rules are the same as for the usual political balance rules for the authority (e.g. requirement for political balance under the standard legislation). Lack of independence and impartiality of Standards Committees leave them open to challenge under Article 6 of ECHR (right to a fair trial).
||Voting members of the Standards Committee (at least 25% of that Committee), including the Chair. Voting members on assessment panels and review panels (i.e. sub-committees, which must also have an Independent Member as Chair).
||Required to appoint at least one "Independent Person" through a proper recruitment process. Her or his views are sought (and taken into account) by the Monitoring Officer before investigation; also available to the Standards Committee (if there is one) and the accused Member. These are not "members" and cannot vote in committee, though some authorities have established an assessment panel chaired by an Independent Person.
|Investigation of complaints
||Initially centralised - all complaints sent straight to the Standards Board for England (later Standards for England) which considered complaints from 2002. From 2003 SBE had power to refer results of investigations to councils for determination. More responsibility given to councils under the "local filter" from 2008. Initial assessments/reviews held in private; full hearings presumed to be heard in public.
||Local authority's Monitoring Officer will receive complaint and assess it: is the Code engaged; does it merit investigation; is alternative action justified? Independent Person may be consulted. (Usually more responsibility placed on the Council's Monitoring Officer than under previous standards regime.) Full hearings presumed to be heard in public.
||Subject to Judicial Review. First-tier tribunal can hear appeals. Local Government Ombudsman has some jurisdiction (remedy for personal injustice).
||Subject to Judicial Review. First-tier tribunal jurisdiction abolished. Local Government Ombudsman's jurisdiction unchanged.
196 Cm.3072-1 (Committee on Standards in Public Life,
Standards of Conduct in Local Government in England, Scotland,
and Wales (3rd report, Cm.3072, July1997), Vol.1),
Nolan to Prime Minister: "Despite instances of corruption
and misbehaviour, the vast majority of councillors and officers
observe high standards of conduct." Back
Cm.3072-1, 17. Back
Cm.3072-1, 17. Back
Cm.3072-1, 3. Back
House of Commons ODPM: Housing, Planning, Local Government and
the Regions Committee, The Role and Effectiveness of the Standards
Board for England, Seventh Report of Session 2004-05 (HC60-1).
HC Debs, 1 Feb 2005, Col.229WH. Back
New rules to ensure greater town hall transparency, DCLG press
release, 28 June 2012 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-rules-to-ensure-greater-town-hall-transparency
See, for example, Transparency International UK's report, Corruption
in Local Government: The Mounting Risks (October 2013).http://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/15-publications/747-corruption-in-uk-local-government-the-mounting-risks Back
Michael Macaulay and Alan Lawton, 'Changing the Standards?Assessing
the Impact of the Committee for [sic] Standards in Public Life
on Local Government in England' Parliamentary Affairs,
Vol.59, No.3, 2006, 474-490, citing their research report for
Ken Livingstone v The Adjudication Panel for England  EWHC
2533 (Admin), Para 41 (Mr Justice Collins). Back
Cm.6407 (Committee on Standards in Public Life, Getting the
Balance Right: Implementing Standards of Conduct in Public Life
(10th report, January 2005)), Para. 3.88. Back
Alan Lawton and Michael Macaulay, 'Localism in Practice: Investigating
Citizen Participation and Good Governance in Local Government
Standards of Conduct', Public Administration Review, Vol.74,
Iss.1, 2013, 75-83, 77 Back
Ibid., 77 Back
Committee on Standards in Public Life, Annual Report 2012-13 (August
2013), 14-15. Back
Richard Cowell, James Downe, and Karen Morgan, 'The Ethical Framework
for Local Government' Public Management Review, 13:3 (2011),
433-457, 435. Back
Cited in Macaulay and Lawton, n.10 above, 480. Back
Cm.6407, paras 353-5. Back
Macaulay and Lawton, n.10 above, 480. Back
Committee on Standards in Public Life, Annual Report 2012-13 (August
2013), 14-16. Back
HC60-1, Para 47. Back
Richard Cowell, James Downe, and Karen Morgan, 'The Ethical Framework
for Local Government' Public Management Review, 13:3 (2011),
433-457, 443. Back
E.g. Herefordshire Council.https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/government-citizens-and-rights/democracy/standards-and-ethics/standards-panel-reports.See
also Michael Macauley, Gary Hickey, Norjahan Begun, Preparing
for the New Standards Regime in English Local Government (Middlesbrough,
Teeside University, 2012). Back
Cm.3072-1, 45. Back
Under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972. Back
On 30 August 2013, the Administrative Court granted permission
to appeal against a Localism Act standards regime decision under
the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights (including
freedom of expression; standards committee is neither independent
nor impartial). Back
Local Government Lawyer and Freeth Cartwright LLP survey.Cited
in 'Raising the standards', Local Government Lawyer, 17
Committee on Standards in Public Life, Annual Report 2012-13 (August
2013), 15. Back
e.g. 'Lawyers in Local Government echoes concerns over standards
regime', Local Government Lawyer, 02 September 2013. Back
Michael Macaulay and Alan Lawton, n.10 above, 474. Back