Draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - First Report


Memorandum by Leicester City Council

  Leicester City Council welcomes the Bill as a further step towards the modernisation of local government. Elected Members and Officers are already actively engaged in this dynamic debate and consideration is currently being given to how we might involve stakeholders in the wider community, to seek their views on improved local governance.

  The publication of the discussion paper alongside the Draft Bill was felt to be very helpful. A broader explanation of the roles and responsibilities of the Executive and Overview and Scrutiny Committees has resulted in a better understanding of what the split in policy development and implementation function hopes to achieve.

  The discussion paper also emphasised the importance of local discretion and it is to be hoped that the final Bill does not develop the models or their functions in an over-prescriptive manner, taking away from local government the flexibility it needs to act as an effective and responsive community leader.

  If Councils are to capture the interest and support of local communities in active citizenship the relationship needs to be developed on the basis of more transparency in proceedings and more accountability and it is to be hoped that the proposals contained in the final Bill will help achieve this.

  Elected Members have mixed views on the merits of a Directly Elected Mayor and feel that unless candidates of calibre come forward, there is a danger of personalities without integrity undermining the seriousness of the role.

  Members are also cautious on the merits of the electorate being able to force a referendum for a Directly Elected Mayor and the implications this may have on local conditions.

  The opportunity to share decision making responsibilities through a more collective framework is welcomed, as is the opportunity to open up the debate on all these issues with the public.

  On two specific issues:

    —  We are happy with the broad definition of the Monitoring Officer's responsibilities. It gives authorities the chance to develop their own approach. At the moment the draft Bill make a broad statement about the additional role on ethical standards issues and supporting a standards committee. More detail on this would be helpful, but national standard rules are to be avoided so that local discretion is not hampered.

    —  With regard to indemnity for Elected Members, Leicester's Members are interested in extending existing indemnity for staff to Elected Members. There are legal difficulties to be overcome before this can happen and our solicitors are continuing to explore this with the help of the LGA solicitor. We also understand the Audit Commission is obtaining Counsel's opinion.

  We would suggest that there is a need for the law to be reformed to either provide more comprehensive statutory indemnity for individual Elected Members or to enable local authorities to provide one.

  We hope these points will be given full consideration as the final Bill is produced and can confirm that Leicester will continue to develop its own ideas and proposals in advance of the eventual legislation.

21 May 1999

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