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



18. The draft bill requires local authorities in England and Wales to make proposals for political management structures with a separate executive. The responsibilities of the executive will be determined by regulations made by the Secretary of State (or, in Wales, the National Assembly). It is however expected that the executive will assume most of the functions formerly undertaken by the full council and its committees.

19. Three model forms are provided, though the Secretary of State may by regulation prescribe more. The models are:

  • a council leader, appointed by full council, who either appoints an executive drawn from the council or heads an executive appointed by and drawn from the council;

  • a directly-elected mayor, with a council manager, to be appointed by the council, who will be an officer of the authority.

1. The size of the executive must not be larger than 10 councillors or 15 per cent of the council, whichever is the smaller, including a directly-elected mayor. Within the permitted maximum, the directly-elected mayor or leader will decide how big the executive is to be. The executive and any committees of the executive will not have to reflect the political balance of the authority as a whole.

2. Responsibility for exercising the functions of the executive can be discharged in a variety of ways under the different models. Thus under the elected mayor/executive model, the mayor can decide whether the functions are carried out by the full executive, single members acting alone, committees of the executive, or officers, with the possibility of some further sub-delegations; under the council leader/executive model, the leader may decide as above, or the council may decide; and under the elected mayor/council manager model, functions may be discharged by the executive, the council manager or a nominated officer.

3. To hold the executive to account, authorities must set up one or more overview and scrutiny committees. These committees have power to summon members of the executive to appear before it and to report and make recommendations. (Although not in the Bill, it is clear from the White Paper[6] that these committees are expected to carry out wider functions than simple post hoc scrutiny.)

4. Every local authority must draw up proposals for moving over to new executive arrangements, including the model to be followed, the functions of the executive, the scrutiny committees to be set up and the timetable for implementation. Reasonable steps must be taken to consult electors and interested parties on the proposals. The proposals must then be submitted to the Secretary of State.

5. Where proposals include a model with an elected mayor, the authority must hold a referendum, the result of which is binding. If the referendum does not approve a proposal, no other referendum may take place for five years on any revised proposals with an elected mayor.

6. Executive arrangements must be adopted by resolution of the full council, after which it cannot at any time cease to operate executive arrangements. Provision is made for an authority to modify its executive arrangements.

7. Where a local authority has received a public petition signed by at least 5per cent of electors in support of executive arrangements with an elected mayor, it can be required by regulation to hold a referendum on the elected mayor options. And the Secretary of State is empowered to make regulations enabling him to require a local authority to hold a referendum on whether they should adopt executive arrangements based on any one of the three models prescribed.

8. The term of office of an elected mayor is four years and it is expected that the timing of elections will, after the first election, fall in with the normal electoral cycle for the council. The voting system will be by supplementary vote (SV) and the precise details on the conduct of elections will be set out in regulations.

9. The Secretary of State can issue guidance setting out a timescale which authorities must observe in drawing up proposals and implementing them, and on the operation of scrutiny committees and availability of information. A local authority must have regard to this guidance.


10. Part II of the bill deals exclusively with the ethical conduct of members of local authorities and local authority employees. Following consultations, the Secretary of State may issue a model code of conduct (which may be varied for different types of authority) with optional and obligatory provisions. Within six months of issue, a local authority must adopt a code or else the model code will apply by default. Each member of an authority must then subscribe to it, on pain of removal from office.

11. Conduct under the code is policed by a local standards committee and National Standards Boards, one for England and one for Wales appointed by the Secretary of State and the National Assembly respectively. The Standards Boards are bodies corporate, and most of their members will be Ethical Standards Officers (ESO) who have the duty and powers to investigate any allegation of a breach of the code of conduct. The ESO may decide that there was no breach of the code; or that there is no need for action; or that the matter can be dealt with by the local standards committee; or that the breach should be pursued.

12. Where an ESO finds that a breach of the code should be referred to an Adjudication Panel for determination, it is considered by a Case Panel drawn from the members of the Adjudication Panel. Where a Case Panel finds that the Code has not been complied with, the person found to have breached the Code may be suspended from being a member of the authority for up to a year, or disqualified for up to five years. An appeal from the decision lies to the High Court.

13. The Secretary of State is also empowered by the Bill to issue a code of conduct for local authority employees. Such a code is to be deemed part of the employee's terms of employment.

6  Cm4298, paras 3.15 - 3.22 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 3 August 1999