Memorandum by Nottingham City Council
The following is the response of Nottingham
City Council to the draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards)
Bill, following deliberation at a meeting of its Policy and Resources
Committee held today.
There are arguments for introducing an executive
function within Councils to facilitate speedier action and promote
greater efficiency. However, this Council believes that the three
models proposed by the Government are prescriptive and may not
necessarily promote greater openness nor address local circumstances.
The opportunity should be taken, under the proposed further regulations,
to enable other forms to be adopted. The Council notes that, under
the proposals, the executive in Nottingham City Council's case
would consist of eight members only. Again, this is too prescriptive;
it should be a matter of local choice. The retention of a strategic
role for all councillors is welcomed. However, the powerful role
for all councillors envisaged by the paper must not be illusory.
This Council welcomes the clarification of the
role of such committees set out in "Local leadership, local
choice" and in the draft bill. There should, however, be
scope within the work of these committees for a less rigid division
of members. The function of overview and scrutiny committees to
inform and guide the work of the executive, as well as to monitor
its activities, could provide an essential element in the revised
political management structure, but should not depend upon an
arbitrary and difficult division between "executive"
and "scrutiny" roles.
This Council is not in favour of an elected
mayor, preferring that a consensual agenda is presented to the
electorate and a collaborative approach, maintained by those entrusted
with the mandate for the City's governance. It is considered that
a petition of 5 per cent of local government electors is a low
threshold for requiring the holding of a referendum.
There is a clear difference between the duties
of Nottingham's traditional civic and ceremonial Lord Mayor and
the intended executive role of an elected mayor. It is not clear
from the paper how this would be dealt with.
It is noted that there is no intention to change
current electoral cycles, excepting that the initial term of office
for any elected mayor could be shorter in order to bring it into
line with ordinary Council elections. The Council would not support
the introduction of annual elections.
The new ethical framework is to be welcomed
in that it will clearly demonstrate the integrity of Council members
and ensure that the high standards of probity do not slip. This
Council has already established a Standards Committee and welcomes
a formal statutory framework within which the Committee can operate.
However, this framework should provide a clear authorisation to
take the necessary action. The powers and sanctions available
to the Standards Committee should therefore be specified.
The task of deciding which allegations are more
serious and therefore matters for the independent Standards Board
rather than the Council's own Standards Committee is allotted
under the bill to Ethical Standards Officers. Where the ESO refers
a matter to the Standards Board, the Board may itself later refer
it to the Standards Committee. The bill should specify criteria
against which these decisions will be made.
Reference is made in "Local leadership,
local choice" to area committees playing an important role
in advising a council's executive on such matters as community
planning. It also sees value in their assisting the work of the
overview and scrutiny committees. This Council welcomes the opportunity
to continue under the new structure the excellent working relationships
promoted by its existing area committees. However, the Council
is concerned that the role of area committees will be undermined
by the arbitrary distinction between "executive" and
"scrutiny" roles which cannot adequately fit their work.
Whilst welcoming many of the provisions in the
draft bill, Nottingham City Council believes that it has fulfilled
the aims of the bill in its activities on behalf of the people
of Nottingham. This Council does put its people and communities
first, it espouses openness and accountability and it has served
and led the community through many years of tangible progress.
The paper refers to a new duty to promote the economic, social
and environmental wellbeing of the areathis duty has been
pursued with exceptional success over recent years, notwithstanding,
in some situations, the existence of unnecessary legal constraints.
The introduction of the new duty should be accompanied by the
removal of those constraints.
18 May 1999