Review

February 1st, 2019 by James Goudie QC in Standards

The Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by former M15 head, Lord Evans of Weardale, on 30 January 2019 issued a 110 page Report to the Prime Minister, following its review of local government ethical standards in England. The Report concludes that, whilst the consistency and independence of the system could be enhanced, there is no need to reintroduce a centralised body, and that local authorities should retain ultimate responsibility for implementing and applying the Seven Principles of Public Life in local government.

The Report makes 23 Recommendations. The Report also contains a list of 15 “best practice” recommendations, directed to local authorities.

 

Disqualification

October 19th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Standards

On 18 October 2018 the Government announced new disqualification rules to prevent people found guilty of serious crimes, notably sex crimes, from serving as councillors and mayors. The new strengthened rules are designed to prevent people found guilty of serious crimes from serving on local councils. The new rules will mean any person who is subject to an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction, a Criminal Behaviour Order, a Sexual Risk Order or who is on the Sex Offenders’ Register, will no longer be able to stand for elected office in their community.  Current conditions make clear that anyone convicted of an offence carrying a prison sentence of more than 3 months is banned from serving as a local councillor. The new measures will strengthen this further by bringing disqualification rules to include the alternatives to a prison sentence as a barrier to becoming a councillor. Anyone convicted of a serious offence that results in a sentence covered under the new disqualification criteria will be banned from standing for election, or would be forced to step down if they were convicted whilst in post. Read more »

 

Publication

July 3rd, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Standards

In Taveta v FRC (2018) EWHC 1662 (Admin) Nicklin J made a number of important observations, including:-

“37.    The implied suggestion in the word “leaked” that there was something inappropriate in the media being told about the proceedings was wholly misplaced. Although, as a matter of practical expediency, urgent applications in the Administrative Court are routinely dealt with on paper, that does not in any way suggest that they are secret. The principle of open justice applies to these applications just as much to hearings in open court. As is clear from what is set out above, the Court has been astute to ensure that this matter has been conducted as far as possible in open court.”

Read more »

 

Complaint of Member Misconduct

June 21st, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Standards

In Bennis v Stratford-on-Avon District Council, EA/2017/0220, the FTT said (para 29) that details of unsubstantiated complaints against Councillors ought not generally to be disclosed to the world at large under the provisions of FOIA.  The proper approach to such information is to consider the rights of the councillor concerned as a data subject.

The FTT however did not consider exemptions under Section 36 of FOIA to prevail. The request for disclosure was of advice that the Council had received when considering the complaint that was not upheld. The advice had been provided to the MO by an Independent Person (“the IP”) under the Localism Act 2011.  Given that the IP’s views would in any event have become public if a hearing had been directed, transparency prevailed over the risk of disclosure inhibiting the IP’s views.

 

Ambit of Code of Conduct

May 23rd, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Standards

The main issue in R (Harvey) v Ledbury Town Council (2018) EWHC 1151 (Admin) was an issue as to jurisdiction, namely a dispute between the parties as to whether it was open to the Council to proceed against a member outside its Code of Conduct under the Localism Act 2011 (“the 2011 Act”).  Cockerill J held that the Council by doing so acted ultra vires. It was contrary to the intention of Parliament as expressed in the 2011 Act to run a process in tandem with or as an alternative to the Code of Conduct process envisaged by the 2011 Act: Judgment, paragraph 103.
Cockerill J said:- Read more »

 

Ethics

January 30th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Standards

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has on 29 January 2018 initiated a review of and consultation upon local government ethical standards, for responses by 18 May 2018. The consultation questions are: Read more »

 

Disqualifying Criteria

September 19th, 2017 by James Goudie QC in Standards

On 18 September 2017 CLG issued a public Consultation Paper, for response by 8 December 2017, on proposals for updating prospectively the Local Government Act 1972 Section 80 and other criteria disqualifying individuals from being elected, or holding office, as a local authority member or co-opted member or directly elected mayor or member of the London Assembly. Anyone given an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction or a Criminal Behaviour Order under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, or added to the Sex Offenders’ Register under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, would no longer be able to hold office. Those subject to a Sexual Risk Order would not be disqualified.

 

Investigations

June 29th, 2017 by James Goudie QC in Standards

In Hussain v Sandwell MBC (2017) EWHC 1641 (Admin) the Council had conducted a “pre-formal investigation”, i.e. an investigation not conducted under the “arrangements” put in place under the Localism Act 2011 (“LA 2011”) for the formal investigation of breaches under the Code of Conduct applicable to elected Members. Read more »

 

Costs

February 7th, 2017 by James Goudie QC in Standards

In Taylor v Honiton Town Council [2017] EWHC 101 (Admin) the Court was required to determine costs following an application by Councillor Taylor for judicial review of a decision by the Council to impose sanctions upon him for a breach of its Code of Conduct.  The Council offered to abandon the sanctions and pay his costs shortly after the issue of proceedings. The Court ordered that his costs incurred before the date of the offer should be paid to him by the Council, but that the Council’s costs incurred thereafter should be paid to the Council by him.  He should have accepted the offer.  He achieved nothing of value after rejecting it.  He did no better in Court. His pursuit of the proceedings was not characterised by a genuine attempt to resolve a genuine grievance. Edis J said: Read more »

 

Sanction

December 22nd, 2016 by James Goudie QC in Standards

It is proportionate to a significant breach of the Code of Conduct to require the member in breach to undertake training in the meaning and application of the Code: Taylor v Honiton Town Council and East Devon District Council (2016) EWHC 3307 (Admin). Edis J also held that the duties of investigation of and decision upon allegations against members of the Town Council fell upon the District Council pursuant to the Localism Act 2011 and arrangements thereunder, including independent persons.