Archives for January 4th, 2008

NEW MEASURES WOULD GIVE COUNCILS MORE POWER OVER STANDARDS

Headlines, PublicNet: 4 January, 2008

Local authorities may be given more powers to enforce high standards of conduct for councillors. The proposals have been set out by the Local Government Minister, John Healey and will be open for consultation and comments until mid-February.

If the plans go ahead they will create a new regime under which local standards committees will make initial assessments of all misconduct allegations against councillors. The measures would also see the maximum sanctions the committees could impose being increased from the present three-month partial or total suspension from office, to six months. In more serious cases the committees will be able to refer upwards to the Adjudication Panel for England, which would also see its range of sanctions increased.

Under the proposals the remit of the Standards Board for England would also change so that instead of investigating misconduct allegations it would provide support and guidance to standards committees in their new role. The proposals follow a review of the ethical regime for councillors carried out in 2005 by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The review recommended that decision making on allegations of misconduct should be devolved as much as possible to local level.

John Healey said councils were best-placed to maintain and improve high ethical standards by their members. The proposals had been designed to devolve power to local authorities and to ensure local standards committees received the necessary support and guidance. “These proposals deliver our commitment to introduce a more proportionate and locally based regime for the investigation and determination of all but the most serious of misconduct allegations against local councillors,” he added.

The consultation will end on February 15th and subject to its outcome the proposals would be implemented in April next year at the earliest.

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PANEL TO REVIEW COUNCILLORS’ ALLOWANCES

Headlines, PublicNet: 4 January, 2008

An independent panel has been set up in Wales to review councillors’ allowances. It will look at both the range of payments and their maximum levels. The five members of the panel will issue their first report by the end of July.

They will outline the duties and responsibilities that attract allowances and will set maximum levels with the recommendations being different for each local authority. The permanent panel will then be expected to update the report at least annually. Initially the members will meet monthly but after the first report that will become less frequent.

The panel will be chaired by Richard Penn, the retired chief executive of Bradford City Council, who began his local government career in Glamorgan. He is currently Commissioner for Standards for the National Assembly for Wales. He will be joined by Dr Declan Hall, lecturer in Local Government and Politics at the Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham University, who has a particular interest in member remuneration and support work, Gareth Newton, who was Director of Lifelong Learning with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council until his recent retirement, John Bader, a former Deputy Chief Executive of Housing for Wales and former Director of the Social Justice and Regeneration Department of the Welsh Assembly Government and the medical sociologist, Dr Rita Austin, who has extensive experience of public service in health, education and criminal justice.

The Welsh Assembly Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Brian Gibbons, said, “Setting councillors’ allowances needs to be open and independent if it is to have the confidence of the public. The panel will provide this and introduce a more flexible approach to that available in the confines of the current regulations.”

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MONITORING POVERTY AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION 2007

Features, PublicNet: 4 January, 2008

By Guy Palmer, Tom MacInnes and Peter Kenway,

This New Policy Institute annual report of indicators of poverty and social exclusion in the United Kingdom provides a comprehensive analysis of trends and differences between groups. A wide range of measures show that the policies to counter poverty and social exclusion are failing to deliver. The tables show a worsening in the number in low income, children in low-income households, low income in work and low income and council tax. A further half million children will need to be taken out of poverty to reach the Government’s target for 2004/05. The principal conclusion of the report is that the strategy against poverty and social exclusion pursued since the late 1990s is now largely exhausted.

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