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 directly-elected mayor who appoints an executive
of two or more, drawn from councillors;
- 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
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
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