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News and Comment August 2012

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10 August (Part 1) - Nowhere left to hide?

Guidance to councillorsThe Localism Bill is proving to be a mixed blessing probably because its authors are under the misapprehension that councils are run by decent upright citizens. The Standards Board for England has gone because “ministers believed [it] had become a vehicle for petty, partisan and sometimes malicious, allegations of councillor misconduct that sapped public confidence in local democracy”. There had been some high profile cases of councillors bickering among themselves and it had to stop. However with the Board gone, councils are authorised to be a law unto themselves. Council leader Teresa O’Neill’s governing mantra of “Because I can” is likely to become the norm when Bexley council is asked to justify its actions, indeed it already has and a report will appear here before many more days have passed.

But there are plus points too and one of them should be that no councillor will ever again feel obliged to indulge in crass criminal retaliation whenever a resident looks at the Register of Members’ Interests. Bexley is about to lose its nearly unique distinction of being a borough where the Register is not available on line. The only question remaining is “How long will it be before Bexley council decides to comply with the law?” or will Teresa O’Neill have the Constitution changed in an effort to protect any more criminals she may be nurturing?

According to the new guidance, councillors must disclose pecuniary interests within 28 days and amend the Register as necessary within the same timescale. Given the high number of tin-pot business some of them start up and quickly drive into the wall before starting all over again, that may be a tricky one to comply with, but failure has become a criminal offence. The Bexley Council Monitoring Group is going to be very busy.

The Localism Bill - Government Guidance.


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