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Local Government

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

On 8 May 2008 we introduced through the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1085) the reformed conduct regime for local authority members, in which responsibility for standards of conduct and dealing with allegations of misconduct by members is largely devolved to each council’s independently chaired standards committee. In this regime the Standards Board for England has the role of a strategic regulator, and only the most serious cases of misconduct by members are to be investigated by the Standards Board and determined by case tribunals of the Adjudication Panel for England, established under the Local Government Act 2000.

Following extensive consultation, including with the Local Government Association, local authorities, practitioners, and the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, I have today laid before the House the Case Tribunals (England) Regulations 2008, which complement the Standards Committee (England) Regulations 2008 and make provision about the sanctions available to a case tribunal of the Adjudication Panel.

In particular, these regulations ensure that from 12 December 2008 case tribunals will have the power to censure a member, require them to apologise, attend training, or enter into a process of conciliation. These sanctions are currently available only to councils’ standards committees. Making these sanctions available to case tribunals will allow them to deal proportionately with, for example, a case which, although referred to the tribunal on the grounds that it is very serious, the tribunal concludes is a less serious matter.

The regulations also make provision about certain administrative procedures to be followed in relation to cases before the Adjudication Panel and its case tribunals.

These regulations will help ensure that the reformed conduct regime is fair, transparent and efficient.

We intend to complete the reformed conduct regime in January 2009 by making, following consultation, further regulations which will allow councils to establish joint standards committees, and to enable the Standards Board to suspend, in certain circumstances where the board considers this to be in the public interest, a council’s standards committee’s powers to deal with misconduct allegations.