Friday, July 25, 2008

Conduct of Councillors

My attention has been drawn to a small insignificant item in the current edition of the ever expanding Redbridge Life [4.21Mbits for those on dial-up], now a full 20 pages of self gratification. It’s on page 9 and reads:

How to complain about Councillors.
The responsibility for considering complaints that a Member may have breached the Code of Conduct has moved to the Standards Committees of Local Authorities.
What this means to you.
If you want to complain about the conduct of a Member of the London Borough of Redbridge you must submit your complaint to:
The Chairman of the Standards Committee, Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, Essex IG1 1DD
The Standards Committee can only deal with complaints about the behaviour of a Member. It will not deal with complaints about things that are not covered by the Members’ Code of Conduct.

As I understand it these changed arrangements have not been made at the behest of Redbridge or any other Council. However, the fact that a councillor's conduct (or, rather, alleged misconduct) is investigated by members of the local authority, rather than independently by the Standards Board for England as hitherto, does nothing to inspire confidence in residents that matters of complaint will be considered impartially.

Even more to the point, if recent experience is anything to go by, such complaints are not always made by the public, but by other councillors.

Not satisfactory at all. Who the bloody hell dreamt this up?

7 comments:

  1. So now the lunatics are in complete control of the madhouse.

    I note that the current membership of the Standards Committee includes one of the infamous six Conservatives who, on 20 May 2004, stood in the Town Hall car park while a council meeting was in progress. This ensured that the Conservatives were outnumbered at the meeting and that Allan Burgess's administration was defeated.

    Some standards!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Standards Board has completely failed to achieve anything meaningful and after the High Court decision on Ken Livingstone has been a lame duck with no bite. Since the vast majority of complaints made to it were either by one Councilklor about another or were vexatious or stupid this is not really much of a loss to anyone in the real world. Ultimately if you are really fed up with a Councillor then you can get rid of them by means of the ballot box, which in a democracy is the right and proper way to do it, not by means of yet another faceless and unaccountable quango.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I note that the Standards committee, unlike Scrutiny committees does not have an in-built majority - with 3 Conservatives, 3 Labour and 2 LibDems + 2 "independents" who are Chair and Vice Chair.

    It would be nice to know who these independents are and how they are appointed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Council advertises for people who wish to serve on the Standards Committee and the Council's officers review their experience and suitability before giving Councillors their suggested nominees. The Standards Committe will be chaired by the independent members so this should provide a degree of impartiality.

    The new arrangements are meant to speed up the treatment of complaints that were taking the Standards Board years to resolve, often for petty issues and complaints that were bizarre, such as Council officers complaining when Councillors attended meetings with their constituents.

    If complainants are still not satisfied I think there are still mechanisms for taking compaints beyond the Council and if there is a complaint over the impartial treatment of complaints this probably would need to be dealt with by the Standards Board.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Further to hugh's post, the standrds committee system is imposed from on high rather than made in Redbridge.

    There are now more than two independents (non-councillors) on the committee. Investigations are not conducted by the whole committee but a subcommittee led by one of the independent members.

    There is merit in speeding the process up and weeding out groundless complaints quickly rather than allowing matters to drag on for unconscionable periods. That said the system remains little known, not often used and when it is called into action (such as the Ken Livingstone case) does not seem to command much public confidence.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sorry, I know I am hopeless, but I cannot find the code of conduct of councillors anywhere!
    Help! (My concern is about the frequent lack of response when a 'sensible' question or comment has been made or even when something more contentious is mentioned.)
    annesevant
    ps: many thanks to 'anonymous' who used the word unconscionable. Another impressive word to add to my vocab!

    ReplyDelete