Memorandum by Monitoring Officer, Harrogate
Borough Council (LGA 25)
PART III OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 2000PARISH
My Council is very concerned about the decision
to impose upon district councils (of all types) the responsible
authority status for the ethics of parishes. There was no warning
and no consultation, the legislation was brought into force 12
months before the National Standards Board was up and running.
It is barely functioning yet. The Government and Standards Board
have given no guidance to Monitoring Officers on what they expect.
Both this Code and that for Borough Councils were issued on the
same day, seven months late, so instead of being able to help
parishes to get through the adoption procedures, Monitoring Officers
are trying to deal with their own Councils and parishes at the
same time. In our case some of the parishes are ahead of us and
This is not due to any lack of action on Harrogate
Borough Council's part since we have responded quickly to appoint
a Standards Sub-Committee with five parish representatives. Those
representatives have made it quite clear that many Parish Councillors
consider the requirement to register general interest with the
Council's Monitoring Officer a serious imposition on people who
are effectively unpaid voluntary workers. Many are, apparently,
considering their position. If this view is repeated nationally
there could be large scale resignations from Parish Councils over
the next few months.
There are 75 (soon to be 76) parish councils
within the Harrogate District and approximately 700 Councillors.
It is clearly a massive task to provide training as required under
section 54 and 55 of the Local Government Act 2000 to this number
of Parish Councillors and at the same time train Borough Council
Members and also create the necessary supporting systems required
for the registration of interests.
So far as we are aware, absolutely no additional
resources have been provided by Government in order to allow District
Councils like Harrogate to discharge these tasks and staff are
being bombarded with many, entirely legitimate but time consuming
inquiries from Parish Clerks.
It is hard to see how these additional responsibilities
can be discharged to the standard that we set ourselves in Harrogate
or perhaps more pertinently, how the present state of affairs
is likely to improve public confidence in the ethical standards
operating within parish councils.
Miss F J Hildred
Director of Administration and Monitoring Officer,
Harrogate Borough Council