Joint Committee on the Draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill Report



Scrutiny Committees

We recommend that the regulations or guidance should make clear the presumption that there should be more than one scrutiny committee, but leave open the possibility that an authority may wish to set up committees to cover individual portfolios or functions, or on a multi-functional or cross-cutting basis. (Para 149)

We recommend that scrutiny committees should have the power, within one week, to call in any executive decision before it is implemented. A timescale for considering such decisions should be specified in each authority's standing orders. (Para 150)

We recommend that the provision requiring council committees to reflect the balance of the council should be relaxed in respect of scrutiny committees to allow for disproportionately large representation of opposition groups if an authority so wishes and provided the rights of all members are protected. (Para 153)

We recommend that the Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity should be reviewed and where necessary amended to reflect the new arrangements proposed. (Para 155)

We recommend that authorities, when drawing up their constitutions and reviewing their standing orders, should consider incorporating a rule that where whipping is applied in council business, it should be declared. (Para 158)

We consider that if any change is to be made to the whipping procedure it lies in the hands of the parties. (Para 159)

Publication of information

When executive decisions are recorded and published, the reasons for these decisions, together with factual and analytical material supporting them, should also be published. (Para 177)

We recommend that (with the exception proposed in the White Paper regarding political advice) the advice of officers should be published when it relates to a decision. (Para 178)

Veto and conflict resolution

We recommend that there should be a requirement that each local authority's constitution make provision for a conflict resolution procedure and that guidance be issued as to the forms which such a procedure might follow. (Para 182)

Economic, social and environmental well-being

We recommend that the Government take this opportunity to add to the bill the legislative provisions necessary to impose on councils a duty, or give them a power, to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas. (Para 188)

Code of conduct

We recommend that, following consultation, a National Code of Conduct be issued in the form of regulations, which all authorities must adopt with only relatively minor variations; and that the core elements of the code should be referred to in the bill. (Para 195)

We expect the Government to take account of the representations of the Ombudsmen and other practitioners, who have to operate in the context of the provisions of any code of conduct , as to its contents. (Para 197)

We recommend that any new code of conduct should apply to the conduct of councillors serving on outside bodies. (Para 198)

Mechanisms of complaint

We recommend that members of the executive should not sit on the standards committee. (Para 211)

Standards committees should contain more/a majority of independent members. (Para 211)

To enable standards committees to fulfil a sifting role, a procedure should be established whereby a complaint about a breach of the Code should be considered first by the standards committee and certified by the Monitoring Officer before forwarding to the Standards Board. (Para 211)

We think it essential that the Standards Boards also have mechanisms that enable them to sift complaints. (Para 216)

We recommend that power of suspension be reserved to the Adjudication Panel, where appropriate on application from the Ethical Standards Officer. (Para 218)

We recommend that the bill should specify whether or not a council member would remain suspended or disqualified during the course of an appeal to the High Court. (Para 219)

We recommend that legislative or other provision be made to prevent simultaneous consideration of the same complaint by more than one statutory body. (Para 221)

We recommend that, in deciding the question of accommodating the Standards Boards and Adjudication Panels in England and Wales the Government abide by the advice of the Council on Tribunals in England and the Commission for Local Administration in Wales. (Para 224)

We invite the Government to consider under what circumstances an expedited procedure might be instituted for serious cases. (Para 226)

We recommend that, to pave the way for executive arrangements, surcharge should be abolished by the bill. (Para 228)

We invite the Government to consider whether the principles in Part II of the draft bill should be applied to the investigative procedures of the Auditor. (Para 229)

Pre-legislative scrutiny procedure

We recommend that if pre-legislative scrutiny of bills is to become a regular feature of select committee activity, whether on a joint basis or otherwise, the Government should identify at the beginning of every session those bills which it is likely to introduce in draft form.

While it is preferable that any Government consultation exercise should be completed before a select committee is established, this should not prevent a committee being established earlier if this would allow a more reasonable timetable. (Para 6)

As many of our recommendations relate to the proposed regulations, we urge that rapid progress be made on the preparation of the draft regulations, so that these may be available to Parliament at such time as the draft bill may be introduced. Otherwise much of the debate on the bill will be undesirably hypothetical. (Para 7)

This Report should not necessarily be taken as a comment on the necessity, or desirability, of such a bill as is contained in Cm 4298. We have not taken a view on this, but rather sought to scrutinise the draft legislation as set out and to seek to make recommendations whereby it may be improved. Nor should any individual's membership of the Committee be taken to imply approval of the bill, nor any of its clauses. (Para 8)

While we welcome pre-legislative scrutiny of the kind in which we have engaged as a valuable contribution to the legislative process, we are convinced that the procedure must not replace, or foreshorten any other part of that process, but rather be a further contribution to it. (Para 9)


 
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