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Local Authorities (Code Of Conduct) (Local Determination) Regulations 2003

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(Mr. Christopher Leslie)

On Friday 6th June I laid before Parliament new regulations providing for local standards committees to consider allegations of councillor misconduct. These regulations form an important part of the framework for promoting high standards of conduct in local government, complementing the work of the Standards Board for England and the Adjudication Panel for England.New codes of conduct for councillors were introduced in November 2001, and have applied to members of all local authorities in England, and of police authorities in Wales, since May 2002. It is open to anyone to make an allegation to the Standards Board for England that a member has breached the code of conduct and the Standards Board can require an Ethical Standards Officer to investigate an allegation.The Ethical Standards Officer may find that there is no evidence of a breach of the code, or that no action need be taken. He may also find that the matter should be referred to the Adjudication Panel for England, which could then impose against the member sanctions of up to five years disqualification.It is also open to the Ethical Standards Officer to refer a matter to the monitoring officer of the relevant local authority. These new regulations concern the procedures to be adopted when a matter is referred to the monitoring officer.The regulations require monitoring officers to arrange for any matters referred to them by an Ethical Standards Officer to be considered by a meeting of the standards committee. They include provisions relating to the conduct of a hearing by the standards committee, and allow the committee to impose sanctions of up to three months suspension.The regulations allow a member who has been the subject of a hearing by the standards committee to seek leave to appeal against the committee's findings to an appeals tribunal drawn from the Adjudication Panel for England.These new regulations will allow standards committees to play a more active role in promoting high standards of conduct within their authorities. They have been prepared following extensive consultation: a summary of the consultation responses is available on the website of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and in the Libraries of both Houses.