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Local Government Act 2000

Volume 408: debated on Tuesday 1 July 2003

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The Minister for Local Government, Regional Governance and Fire
(Mr. Nick Raynsford)

The Government are today publishing a consultation paper and draft Order on the nature of the powers to be conferred on relevant authorities under s.101 of the Local Government Act 2000.There has been uncertainty about the extent of the powers of authorities to indemnify their members and officers out of public funds for any personal liability arising from actions or decisions taken by them in the course of their official duties. The consultation paper and draft Order will pave the way for the clarification of the situation. One important feature of the new Order is that it is intended to facilitate joint working between authorities and partners. It will make clear the ability of members and officers to be covered by an indemnity for work that they do on boards and partnerships, provided certain conditions are met.The proposals and draft Order would permit (but not oblige) authorities to provide indemnities and insurance that would provide "cover" for a member or officer in the following circumstances:

if the member had acted honestly and in good faith when taking the action giving rise to the liability;
if the authority was found to have acted outside its powers, but at the point at which the member or officer acted they honestly and reasonably believed that the action or advice giving rise to the liability was within the powers of the authority.

The proposals would also allow indemnities to be provided in certain cases to cover the costs incurred by a councillor in relation to defending proceedings under the Code of Conduct. These cases are ones in which the member is finally either found not to have breached the Code or is found to have breached it but in a case in which the matters complained of, or circumstances, did not warrant any sanction.

Copies of all the consultation material have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.