Memorandum by the London Borough of Camden
1.1 Camden Council welcomes in principle
the introduction of a draft Bill as a further stage of consultation
between a White Paper and a Bill. We welcome the opportunity to
comment on the draft legislation and contribute our experiences
of the issues for consideration by a Special Joint Select Committee
of both Houses of Parliament.
1.2 As set out in our response to the Green
Paper, "Modernising Local Government: Local Democracy and
Community Leadership" in April 1998, Camden Council is enthusiastic
about accepting the challenge of a democratic renewal agenda,
as is shown by our record of innovation, our current good practice
and the developments we have planned. We are concerned that the
Bill as presently drafted does not offer sufficient flexibility
for authorities to seize the new challengesfor example,
to hold a referendum that includes other options than that of
an elected Major.
1.3 Camden Council has already taken steps
to put in place key features of the modernisation agenda. Camden
has carried out an extensive public consultation exercise on the
possibilities for introducing new political management systems
and, as part of our commitment to a new ethical framework we have
established a Camden Standards Panel independent of the Council,
with no council members. Both these experiences are included within
this response as part of our comments on the draft Bill. They
offer practical examples of putting in place mechanisms to achieve
the Government's stated objectives.
1.4 Our response to the Green Paper encapsulated
Camden Council's position at that time and remains our firm view:
"We believe that local government should have the freedom
to experiment with different models. The essence of our position
is that local arrangements should be fit for local circumstances.
It is to be expected that there will be variations in structures,
processes and outcomes across local authorities, as democratically
elected councils make judgements, after due consultation and involvement,
about what will work best in the local circumstances in which
they find themselves. We believe it to be good democratic practice
to offer the widest possible choice to the electorate where local
consultation has identified this need. As interest in our consultation
exercise has demonstrated, local people are interested in a range
of models of political management and may not favour the models
1.5 Although a welcome mechanism to move
to workable legislation, this is a new process and some elements
of the consultation process are somewhat unclear. For example,
we have concentrated our response on the draft Bill itself and
whether it achieves what it sets out to do. However, it is not
entirely clear whether the draft Bill is intended to implement
what is set out in the accompanying preamble. It is difficult
to assess the full impact of the proposed legislation without
having sight of the draft regulations and guidance or without
knowing the government's intentions in respect of those amendments
to existing legislation. In order to ascertain the degree of flexibility
that councils may have, an early consultation on regulations would
be very welcome.
1.6 In the remainder of this response, we
will set out views on both the overall content and detailed drafting
of the two sections of the draft Bill and provide what we hope
are useful examples of best practice on our consultation exercise
and Standards Committee.
2.1 The Executive
2.1.1 The draft Bill refers at significant
points to the Secretary of State's intention to issue Regulations
and guidance. For example, the Secretary of State will be able
to include further forms of political management in Regulations
should these emerge; those functions which can and cannot be exercised
by the executive or may be exercised by the executive are not
set out in the draft Bill and will be the subject of Regulations.
As mentioned above, it is difficult to assess the full implications
of the proposed legislation without more information about the
likely content of Regulations. For example, the preamble refers
to licensing and other quasi-judicial matters being excluded from
executive decision making but does not say what these other matters
will be or whether Authorities will have any discretion in this
area. Consultation on draft regulations and guidance in summer
1999 (immediately following the Select Committee) would prove
extremely timely for authorities considering how to prepare for
2.1.2 The Secretary of State will also be
able to specify all the matters which must be discharged by full
Council. This will allow the Secretary of State to specify, for
example, policy areas which he would expect to see exercised by
the Council and not by the executive. It is difficult to tell
from the Bill, therefore, what flexibility the local authority
will have in determining what matters can go to the executive
and which will stay with the Full Council. This Authority currently
reserves very little to Full Council.
2.2 Delegation to the ExecutiveThe
2.2.1 The introduction to the Bill makes
several references to a local authority's "new constitution".
This is not mentioned in the Bill and needs clarification although
it may be that it is the scheme of delegation which will in reality
form that new constitution.
2.2.2 For the elected Mayor, the Bill states
that the executive arrangements must include arrangements which
enable the elected Mayor to discharge all of the executive functions
and to enable the Major to decide on delegation to the executive,
a single member of the executive, a committee of the executive
or an officer. Clarification is sought regarding the exact arrangements
permitted for delegation. The implication of this is that decisions
by single members will be allowed under the bill although the
bill does not explicitly say so. This will have to be done, in
any event, by an amendment to the 1972 Act. Any such amendment
would also need to take into account the position of joint committees
and advisory committees, neither of which are mentioned in the
preamble or the Bill.
2.3.1 Camden Council notes Government's
stated aim that new forms of local governance will bring powerful
roles for all councillors. As a key vehicle for delivering change,
one clause in the Bill on overview and scrutiny committees appears
insufficient. The lack of clarity regarding the range and function
of the scrutiny role causes concern. The flexibility open to councils
may be explained in regulations but it is difficult to judge whether
this will be the case.
2.3.2 The overview and scrutiny committees
must scrutinise the discharge of the executive functions and make
reports and recommendations to the authority or to the executive
on matters relating both to executive functions and other functions
of the authority which are connected to the executive functions.
However, an omission from the bill is how much flexibility there
will be available to the authority or the executive in treating
2.3.3 The operation and functions of overview
and scrutiny committees will be set out by the Secretary of State
in regulations. The bill does not say that any executive arrangements
by the local authority must include provisions which comply with
those regulations. It is therefore difficult to comment on the
functions of overview and scrutiny committees without knowing
the content of those regulations. All other matters relating to
overview and scrutiny committees which are set out in the introduction
to the document are absent from the bill.
2.4 Consultation and Referenda
2.4.1 The Bill does not explicitly state
that every local authority must adopt executive arrangements.
However, the bill does require every local authority to draw up
proposals for the operation of executive arrangements. It is important
to note that the definition of "executive arrangements"
at the start of the bill means the creation and operation of an
executive of the authority with responsibility for the executive
functions of the authority.
2.4.2 The Bill then sets out the only three
forms of executive which are allowed. The implication of this
is that every local authority must draw up and then submit to
the Secretary of State proposals for an executive of either an
elected Mayor with a cabinet, an executive leader with the cabinet
or an elected Mayor and council manager. There are no other options
contained in the Bill, other than the ability of the Secretary
of State to include other options in regulations. Although there
is a requirement to submit proposals to the Secretary of State,
the Bill does not indicate whether they are subject to the consent
of the Secretary of State.
2.4.3 In drawing up the proposals for the
operation of executive arrangements, the authority must take reasonable
steps to consult local government electors and other interested
people in the authority's area. Information on Camden's extensive
consultation exercise. "Make Your Mark: A New Kind of Council
for Camden" is attached at Annex 1.
2.4.4 Whereas the preamble states that a
local authority may only retain traditional arrangements as a
consequence of a referendum, the only mechanism in the Bill by
which the local authority may do this is to hold a referendum
on the authority's proposal for an elected Mayor and for the electorate
to vote against it. There is nothing in the Bill which will allow
the authority to have a referendum where the authority proposes,
for example, a leader/cabinet. It would obviously also be a nonsense
for a local authority to put proposals for an elected Mayor to
a referendum and then campaign against it because it wished in
reality to retain the status quo.
2.4.5 If it is the government's intention
that a Council may be able to retain traditional arrangements
as a consequence of a referendum, then this should be included
in the Bill. Currently, there is no explicit power for a local
authority to hold a referendum. If it should choose to do so it
could only do so either as part of any consultation requirement
under existing legislation or under Section 111 of the Local Government
Act 1972. However, it is doubtful that this could be used once
the Bill is enacted as case law suggests that where there is a
specific statutory regime, that cannot be supplemented by the
use of Section 111. Without specific legislative consent a local
authority could not bind itself currently to the outcome of a
2.4.6 Regulations will further set out the
circumstances in which the Secretary of State will be able to
require a local authority to hold a referendum. This is a further
example of the need for early sight of draft regulations so that
authorities can judge the extent of the Secretary of State's powers.
Although the draft Bill sets out the mechanism for a petition
of the electorate to trigger a referendum it is not clear what
proposals the local authority would be obliged to put in such
a referendum or, indeed, what happens if the referendum has a
2.5 Elected Mayors
2.5.1 There is nothing in the Bill which
indicates what the qualifications will be to stand as an elected
Mayor; who may be disqualified from standing; what may disqualify
a person from continuing to be a Mayor once elected and whether
there will be any special requirements about numbers of nominations
etc. These are important issues which may or may not feature in
2.6 Access to Information
2.6.1 The Bill makes no reference whatsoever
to access to information. These provisions are expressed to apply
to meetings and committees of the local authority. The executive
is not described as a committee and therefore it might be assumed
that it is not the intention for access to information to apply
to the operation of the executive. This means that as currently
drafted meetings of the executive will not need to be held in
public nor will there need to be agendas and reports available
for inspection three clear days before the meeting. However, it
may be that case law would decide that the cabinet was in fact
a form of committee, thus applying access to information in any
2.6.2 The preamble sets out in some detail
the government's inclination to make advice from officers public
and also sets out duties to create records of decisions of the
executive and the reasons for that decision. The preamble also
states that failure to create and make available such a record
will be a criminal offence. That duty appears to rest with the
monitoring officer and, where decisions are taken by single members,
that member. There is no reference to any of these issues in the
bill. Whilst some of them might be achieved by amending existing
legislation, others could not and in order to understand fully
the proposed impact of this regime early sight of the legislation
to be amended would be helpful.
2.7.1 The preamble also states that the
payment of pensionable salaries for Mayors, and others in political
executive positions will be made possible and that the attendance
allowance will be ended. It also states that the Council should
seek proposals for their allowances and remuneration scheme from
a local independent panel. This also is not in the bill. Since
it is likely that other legal issues flow from this eg the status
of those members or Mayors as employees, it is important to be
clear whether the government intends to enact this at this stage.
2.7.2 It may be that there is no mention
of many of the apparently omitted matters in the Bill because
they require the amendment of existing legislation rather than
primary legislation in their own right. However, it would have
been helpful for the bill to include those proposed amendments
in order to see how they would work in practice.
3. HIGH STANDARDS
3.1 Ethical Framework
3.1.1 Camden Council welcomes these clauses
that introduce an ethical framework to local government. However,
this section of the draft Bill proposes a fairly bureaucratic
and overly and unnecessarily complicated set of procedures that
could be substantially improved upon. Under the proposed legislation,
Camden's existing Standards Panel would not be lawful.
3.1.2 Camden's Standards Panel is not only
independent of the Council but seen to be so by the public. This
gives our Panel a local credibility and ensures that it commands
local respect. The model of the Standards Committee proposed in
the draft Bill does not ensure independence and could well be
seen to be a part of the Council, not an outcome that is welcomed.
In addition, the Committee as set out in the draft Bill appears
to have no power or responsibility.
3.1.3 There are further elements of the
proposals for Standards Committees that cause concern. No criteria
are contained in the Bill for selecting the independent person.
There is nothing in the Bill about whether the committee needs
to meet the political balance requirements, nor anything on access
to information. It is not clear, therefore, whether it is intended
that it should meet in public.
3.2 Standards Boards
3.2.1 As set out in our response to the
Green Paper we agree that it is necessary to have a body external
to the council to ensure that there is general confidence in the
proper functioning of the standards committee. However, we continue
to see a danger in the Draft Bill in that the remit of the board
is too wide; not only does this take from the council the opportunity
to deal with its own councillors, but is likely to mean an unmanageable
amount of work for the board investigating allegations, many of
which will turn out to be unfounded or unactionable.
3.2.2 It is important that local councils
accept responsibility for ensuring that their members comply with
the ethical framework. The difficulty in referring all complaints
to a regional Standards Board is that it may encourage councils
to distance themselves from that responsibility especially where
the local standards committee has an unclear role.
3.2.3. We believe that our current panel
has the necessary independence to give its reports local respect
and we are concerned that both making its structure unlawful and
removing everything to a regional level may means that local people
will not feel that the ethical issues are being dealt with.
3.2.4 In addition, one of the main advantages
of our current panel is the speed with which it is able to take
decisions. Since its membership is made up of local people, it
already has local knowledge which would need to be acquired by
a more remote Standards Board. Furthermore, the fact that our
panel is not a formal committee of the Authority means that it
can adopt flexible ways of working which contributes to its ability
to respond quickly.
3.2.5 The proposals discussed in paragraph
3.2.8 below in relation to the ability to suspend members pending
an investigation add particular weight to concerns about the inevitably
slower process which a more remote Standards Board will bring.
The absence of any filtering mechanism for complaints (which is
considered in paragraph 3.2.6) is likely to increase potential
3.2.6 There is nothing in the Bill which
restricts the complaints which may be sent to the Standards Boards.
Complaints are not limited to people in the area of the authority
and there is no prior filtering mechanism. We believe that local
expertise and experience can operate to filter the frivolous or
vexatious complainant. While there can be risks in this the Standards
Board could operate some form of overview resulting in a more
manageable system. There is nothing in the Bill which sets out
criteria for matters which are the subject of an investigation
to be referred back to the authority, or those matters referred
to the Adjudication Panel.
3.2.7 A further gap is that there is little
cross referencing in the Bill to the monitoring officer, S151
Officer, Auditor of the Ombudsman and therefore nothing about
the inter-relationship of these different processes. It appears
that there will be no obligation to maintain secrecy or any other
restriction on the disclosure of information by the Ethical Standards
Officer. Given the very wide powers of an Ethical Standards Officer
to obtain information, this makes the silence on access to information
and confidentiality of some concern.
3.2.8 There are significant concerns relating
to the suspension of a member from the authority. The Bill is
silent about the impact of this on the election process since
during the period of suspension, electors would be unrepresented
(or, at least, there would be a more limited representation).
In addition the suspension of a Member from the authority could
have an impact on the political balance of the authority, certainly
in circumstances where the council is hung. There is no reference
to the potential impact in the Bill of what may only be a temporary
3.2.9 The person suspended can appeal to
the High Court but there is no mention in the Bill as to what
happens pending that appeal. In other words, it is not clear whether
the Member is suspended pending appeal or not. If they remain
suspended, then the Bill must deal with the political balance
implications at that stage.
3.2.10 A Member has a right of appeal to
the High Court when suspended by the Adjudication Panel but, again,
there is no mention in the Bill as to what happens pending that
3.2.11 Although the Draft Bill refers to
the Standards Board and the Adjudication Panel referring matters
back to the Standards Committee of the authority, there is nothing
in the bill which indicates what the Standards Committee must
do other than if the Adjudication Panel requires a Member to be
suspended they must be so suspended. There appears to be nothing
that requires the local authority or the Standards Committee to
discuss or publish any such report.
3.3 Other Omissions
3.3.1 Although the proposed Ethical Framework
for local authorities is contained in the same Bill as the democratic
renewal provisions, this part of the Bill only makes reference
to Members of the authority and to members of committees or sub
committees of the authority. There is no provision in the Bill
for any elected Mayor to be covered by the code of conduct or
the rest of the ethical framework.
3.3.2 In addition, whilst the member of
the executive may be suspended from being a member of the authority,
there is nothing in the Bill which would allow a member of the
executive to be suspended from being a member of the executive.
4.1 In summary, Camden Council's main concerns
regarding the draft Bill are:
there should be more flexibility
on options for new political management arrangements and in how
authorities might wish to take up the challenges set out;
referendums should include other
options than that of an elected Mayor where local consultation
has identified this need;
draft regulations and guidance should
be made available as soon as possible:
the proposals for an ethical framework
are over-eleborate and complicated and should allow for more local
the Bill as currently drafted has
a number of omissions and ambiguities which require clarification.
Camden Council's Consultation: "Make
Your Mark: A New Kind of Council for Camden?"
In response to the Government's White Paper,
Camden Council launched a major public consultation with residents
and voluntary, statutory and business organisations in Camden
about possible options for new political management arrangements.
The scale of the consultation, which is remarkably good given
the abstruseness of the topic, is illustrated by the following
1,298 individual questionnaire responses;
92 organisations' responses;
30 public meetings held across the
special consultation meetings set
up with socially excluded groups;
Camden Citizens' Panel workshop held;
extensive advertising placed in local
The consultation took place from January until
31 March 1999. Self-completion questionnaires were distributed
to Camden households with the Council's own magazine, Camden Citizen,
and a targeted mailing was made to over 1600 organisations on
the Council's own consultation database. Other mailings were made
to schools and school governors, voluntary sector networks, and
a wide variety of fora and working groups across the borough.
General publicity leaflets and the questionnaires were also made
available in six community languages, as well as being offered
in Braille, tape and large print. All the information was also
put on the Council's web-site, with the facility to e-mail a response
to the Council.
The questionnaire was produced as part of a
booklet with explanatory material about Camden Council's current
decision-making structure and processes and the White Paper's
options for new decision-making arrangements. A summary of arguments
for and against accompanied a short description of each option.
Besides standard demographic questions, the
questionnaire contained 11 substantive questions with a mix between
"open-ended" and "closed" questions. The former
set of questions has provided a rich source of comments about
how the Council operates now and views on the possible changes.
Many respondents made suggestions about how the Council might
improve the way that it conducts business.
Other Means of Consultation
In addition to obtaining views through the questionnaire,
the Council also sought to have the "Make Your Mark"
consultation included on the agenda of the widest possible range
of fora, liaison groups and partnership boards in order to stimulate
debate and discussion. In particular, the Council organised a
number of public meetings across the borough, and arranged for
officers and Members to attend meetings called by the tenants'
associations, residents' associations, amenity groups and other
voluntary organisations. The local press also contributed by sponsoring
two meetings and giving sizeable coverage to the topic. The Council
also advertised extensively in the local papers, inviting residents
to fill in questionnaires and attend the local meetings.
The Council was also aware of the need to reach
out beyond those groups and social strata which are familiar with
the Council and with participating in its consultation processes.
It therefore also sought to engage a wider range of constituencies
by making particular efforts to address them, through articles
in local newsletters and by attending local meetings. In particular,
the Council organised, in conjunction with the Camden Racial Equality
Council and Disability in Camden, a half-day consultation meeting
for members of those two organisations.
The Council also commissioned MORI to recruit
and facilitate a Camden Citizens' Panel workshop on democratic
renewal. From the 1,500 strong representative group of Camden
residents who make up the Panel, 29 members were selected on a
one-off basis to provide a representative mix of age, gender social
class, ethnicity, tenure and work status to reflect Camden's profile,
and attended the full day workshop, with a presentation and discussion
Nearly 1,300 individuals returned questionnaires.
Because between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of respondents did
not supply full demographic information, comparison of individual
respondents' and Camden's demographic profile is unreliable with
respect to gender, disability and ethnicity, since the missing
data might or might not produce conformity to Camden's profile.
It was noticeable and disappointing, however, that despite producing
both a publicity leaflet and the consultation document in six
languages and setting up a dedicated telephone line for requests,
few were made for these materials. Similarly, the public meetings
held around the borough, even in strongly multi-ethnic areas,
were predominantly attended by white residents.
In terms of age, the missing data would only
partly affect but not overturn the considerable under-representation
of the 18-34 age group and the over-representation of the 55+
age group in the respondents' profile. In terms of tenure, it
would only partly affect but not overturn the considerable under-representation
of council tenants and other tenants, and the over-representation
The questionnaire also asked for respondents'
addresses, and although nearly seven per cent did not give an
address or a postcode , it is clear that responses were not proportionally
distributed across the borough. Of the five areas into which Camden
groups its wards, four areas were under-represented by between
one and 7.5 percentage points. The remaining area, (Area 4, running
from Primrose Hill up to Hampstead covering most of the NW3 postcode),
was over-represented by over 13 percentage points. Even if all
missing data actually belongs to the under-represented areas.
Area 4 would still be over-represented in the respondents' profile.
Of all the five areas, this area has the smallest percentage of
council tenants and the largest percentage of owner occupiers;
the second highest percentage of white residents; and the highest
percentages of both Social Class 1 and 2.
30 June 1999