Part III of the Local Government Act 2000 provides for a new statutory framework governing the conduct of members of local authorities and those of other relevant authorities in England. As part of this framework, under section 50(1) of Act, the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions may issue by order a model code of conduct for members of relevant authorities, to replace the current National Code of Local Government Conduct.
On 8 February the DTLR published a consultation paper "A model code of conduct for Members" seeking views on the Government's proposals on members' conduct that might be reflected in the model code. Copies of the consultation paper were sent to all principal local authorities, fire, national parks and other joint bodies, and parish and town councils in England; to all police authorities in England and Wales; and to the organisations representing all relevant authorities. Copies were also sent to a range of bodies, including academic institutions, which had an interest in the issue.
The consultation exercise received over 700 responses in total. Most respondents agreed that the proposals would be an improvement on the current arrangements, which have evolved over a number of years on a mainly ad hoc basis and have resulted in a complex mix of legislation, regulations and guidance.
Ministers have agreed four national model codes in order to cover the slightly different circumstances of the authorities that will be covered by the new framework. Each model contains essentially the same provisions only differing in relation to terminology. The authorities covered by each model are detailed below:
The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (England) Order (SI no 3575/2001)
- Principal authorities, which in the main will be covered by the new political management structure arrangements, such as counties, districts and London Boroughs are dealt with in schedule 1. The Greater London Authority, the Scilly Isles, the City of London, Fire Authorities and other joint authorities will be covered by schedule 2 of this code;
The National Park and Broads Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) (England) Order (SI no 3577/2001)
- National Parks Authorities and The Broads Authority are covered by another model;
The Police Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order (SI no 3578/2001)
- Police Authorities in both England and Wales have a model to deal with some of the particular roles and specific terminology that applies to such authorities;
The Parish Councils (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2001
- Parish Councils because of their specific local role require a tailored code to cover their varied responsibilities within the new framework.
These models differ from the consultation draft in various respects. The following paragraphs hilghight the main changes.
PreambleThis now contains transitional provisions disapplying existing conduct rules once an authority has adopted its own code.
Has been amended to more clearly reflect that where a member of one relevant authority is appointed by that authority to serve on another relevant authority, they should be bound by the second authority's code. Where they are appointed to serve on a body, other than another relevant authority, the current provision should apply, subject to any other legal obligations on that body. The code also applies in some limited circumstances - set out in paragraphs 4 & 5 of the model - when he is not conducting the business of the authority.
We received many comments about the inadequacy of this provision, as it would not be possible to list every possibly discriminatory factor. We have therefore reworded it substantially so that it promotes equality - as requested by the Association of Police Authorities - and requires members to treat people with respect, thus covering the offence without the need to list specific types of discrimination.
There have only been minor amendments to this provision.
In the draft code circulated within the consultation paper, this paragraph contained a duty on an individual not to commit a criminal offence. Many comments were received about this, both complaining about how the commission of any offence, no matter how "trivial" would result in an automatic breach of the code, and the likelihood of mischief making of a political nature because of this provision. After careful consideration therefore, Ministers have decided to remove the requirement. Instead the code will only contain a requirement not to bring the authority into disrepute, which will mean that minor offences are not authomaticallly breaches of the code. It will be for the Standards Board and the Adjudication Panel to decide whether such offences have brought the authority into disrepute.
Still requires a member not to use his position improperly but has been amended to make it clear when using the resources of the authority that, whilst overtly party political activities should not be funded by the council, some activities undertaken by councillors, such as constituency work or group meetings are legitimately part of council business and thus should not be prohibited under the code.
The original provision, which required members not to act unreasonably - as well as having regard to the statutory advice given by specific officers - has been deleted as it was felt to have been drawn too widely and might possibly have meant that members were in breach of the code every time councils made decisions which were subsequently found to be ultra vires.
As requested by the LGA this provision requires members to "blow the Whistle" on other members as soon as practicable (in writing, to the Standards Board for England) where they reasonably believe a member to have breached the code of conduct.
Has been amended to more closely reflect the existing definitions of relative and partner used in earlier regulations made under this part of the Act and also to more closely match the requirement to disclose certain "business" interests with those set out in the registration section in part 3. This version defines in more detail the bodies over which a member (or his/her partner, relatives, or friends) should declare a personal interest by reason of any degree of ownership, control or management they might have in that body. However this interest may not be considered prejudicial if it fulfils the conditions set out in paragraph 10(2) of the model code.
Paragraphs 9 & 10
Only minor amendments to these provisions (which set out when a members' interest may be deemed to be prejudicial, and thus restrict participation in the business of the council) have been made.
This provision in schedule 1 of the main code relates purely to authorities which will operate under the new political management structures in part II of the Local Government Act 2000 and is aimed at preventing a member from taking an active part in the scrutiny of a decision he has made. In other versions of the code please read comments from 12 onwards as though they applied to the preceding paragraph in the code itself.
Has been clarified to ensure that where a prejudicial interest is held, the member leaves the chamber whilst the matter is being discussed, unless he has obtained a dispensation to remain.
Has been amended to define the meaning of "meeting" more narrowly, following comments during consultation that the existing paragraph was unworkable.
Paragraphs 14, 15 & 16
Now include a timescale of 28 days within which a member must register their interests in writing with the Monitoring Officer, or any changes to those interests.
Following consultation, gifts or hospitality over a value of £25 will be required to be recorded in the register.
Published 7 November 2001
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