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