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Transitional Arrangements for the Standards Regime

December 13th, 2010 by Louise Humphreys

Posted In: Local Government

Tags: Standards, code of conduct, standards board, localism bill

DCLG has recently published guidance on the intended abolition of the Standards Board regime as part of the Localism Bill.

According to the guidance, the Standards Board regime will continue to function "in a normal manner" until two months after the Localism Bill receives Royal Assent when it will be abolished in its entirety. Until that day, allegations of misconduct under the code of conduct can continue to be made.

Transitional measures will be put in place to address the iossue of what happens to allegations that are in the process of being investigated and any pending appeals agsinst sanctions. It is understaood that the proposed transitional measures are:

  • Any cases in the system at the appointed day will make their way through a transitional regime. "This would meet the expectation of those who had made allegations that their allegations would be properly dealt with". It would also allow members with allegations made against them to clear their name
  • Any investigations being undertaken by Standards for England would transfer, on the appointed day, to the local authority that referred the investigation. "It will be for that local authority to arrange for the conclusion of the investigation. The local authority's standards committee will remain established until the last complaint it is considering, referred either internally or from Standards for England, has been dealt with".
  • Any cases with which the First-tier Tribunal (Local Government Standards in England) is dealing on the appointed day will be concluded by that tribunal. "It will not receive any appeals against standards committee rulings after that date".
  • The right of appeal will not exist for those cases standards committees deal with as they work their way through the transitional system. "The Government considers that the risk of protracted proceedings justifies this approach. The sanctions available to standards committees are significantly less severe than the sanctions available to the First-tier Tribunal (Local Government Standards in England)".
  • The suspension sanction will be removed from standards committees for the transitional period. "Hence the most a standards committee could do is, for instance, to issue a councillor with a censure or a request that they undergo training".

The guidance also indicates that while the requirement for councils to adopt a model code would be abolished by the Localism Bill, local authorities would be free to adopt their own, voluntary code.

Finally, local authorities will also be free to maintain a standards committee, although they will no longer be required to do so, to consider complaints against elected or co-opted members. "Such committees will, according to councils' local constitutions, be able to censure but will not be able to suspend or disqualify members from council membership" the guidance states.