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+2 votes

Further to recent threads I prepared a detailed letter to the relevant governement dept about shortcomings in the PC model.  Here is part of their reply.  What an absolute cop out.  I cant see anything changing any time soon . No wonder total apathy is rife

I should begin by explaining the relationship between central government and local government. Local authorities act independently of central government. Ministers and central government have no remit to intervene in the day-to-day affairs of local authorities, except where specific provision has been made in an Act of Parliament. Local authorities are accountable for their actions to their electorate and must act within their statutory powers. There are robust mechanisms in place for local people to hold councils to account.

Under the Localism Act 2011, all local authorities, including parish councils, are required to adopt a code of conduct for members. It is for each local authority to determine the contents of their code and their procedure, although any code must conform to the seven ‘Nolan’ principles of standards in public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. If you feel a councillor has breached their council’s code of conduct, I advise making a complaint according to your town council’s complaints procedure. The matter can also be furthered to your principal council’s monitoring officer, who has the power to investigate alleged misconduct.

You may however be interested to learn that on 30 January 2019, the Committee on Standards in Public Life published its review into local councils and how they are supporting good ethical standards in light of changes over the past ten years. The report is available here.

by (5.0k points)

2 Answers

+1 vote
Agreed, as it’s all about individuals and there’s nothing about Councils as failing organisations
If they can’t police Councils like Liverpool, Northampton and Croydon there’s no chance of them tackling Parish’s
You only have to read Rotten Boroughs in Private Eye in to sees the scale of the problem yet they only publish I believe about 1 in 5 of the stories they are given
by (11.7k points)
+2 votes

It is not only a cop out, the phrase "There are robust mechanisms in place for local people to hold councils to account"  shows that the author is either blatantly lying or has a deluded understanding of the current legislation.   Currently there is only the ballot box once every four years, and given voter apathy, co option and being elected un opposed it is fantasy to regard that as robust.  The code of conduct does not stop wasting money, breaching legislation, incompetent decisions etc. 

by (35.5k points)
Graeme I agree 100%
Agreed, but the process for questioning decisions, wasting money, breaching legislation etc. is via the external auditors and I'm not clear why nobody feels that is appropriate.  Public interest reports, where issued, can be brutal and ultimately councillors can be held personally liable in some circumstances.  It's not just about complaints for breaches of the Code of Conduct (toothless in the extreme) which are dealt with by the Monitoring Officer (and I agree there needs to be a national code of conduct not just a local one).  Compulsory training at all levels, including councillors and clerks is an absolute must in my opinion.
The strength and weakness of our democracy is that the vast majority of citizens can stand for any tier or government if they want so compulsory training will never happen
Can you imagine a by-election being called because a MP failed an exam ?
Publishing what training Councillors do we s another matter and in my case anyone can go online and see the training I’ve done and my attendance record but now very much doubt if anyone has done so
The problem with complaining to external auditors is that nobody has much experience about how to complain or about what  . You have a set of accounts that you don't prepare and asked to complain about them. And you only get one chance a year.  As regards public interest reports an auditor once told me that they are as rare as hen's teeth.  The bottom line is that national government wants local government on the cheap and you get what you pay for.   Also the sad fact is that when new councillors join with the intentions of changing things  half of them become seduced and end up wanting to become part of this system rather than changing it .
External Auditor's often try and avoid making any judgement on what money is spent on and whether it constitutes good value or a waste. I know of instances where the EA will just say an issue lies outside their scope and the paritioner has no power to make them reconsider. They will pick up on a flawed declaration on an AGAR but only if a complainant provides them with evidence. If recomendations on a public interest report are  ignored, they will often express disappointment or concern the following year, if a paritioner provides evidence to them, but have no power to make a council comply.
People make bad decisions.  How those decisions are made is laid down in numerous bits of statute starting with the Local Government Act but there are loads more Acts that govern how parish councils have to work.  Internal and external audits look at process so decisions taken, good or bad, need to follow those processes or councillors might find themselves footing the bill.  I have seen public interest reports and I have to say that the Welsh regime is pretty brutal and very thorough but you can't legislate for idiots making bad decisions

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