Headlines: November 24th, 2004

The think-tank – the Local Government Information Unit – is calling for an easing of the restrictions that prevent council staff playing their part in local democracy. It has used its submission to the Government’s parallel consultations on a code of conduct for local government officers and on political restrictions, to renew demands for the legislation to be updated.Proposals for the reform of political restrictions are seen by the LGIU as one of the key measures needed to encourage more people to take part in public service as councillors or school governors. It has won the backing of 135 MPs from all political parties who have signed an Early Day Motion supporting its campaign.

Dennis Reed, the LGIU Chief Executive, is convinced that it is feasible to eliminate the potential for abuses such as those that happened in the past, without hampering the democratic rights of local government staff who have reached certain levels in their authorities.

He branded the rules “ridiculously draconian and unfair”. In the period since the current restrictions were introduced there had been an explosion in public concern about standards in public life. “These rules have become increasingly outdated and riddled with anomalies, while depriving communities of a pool of talent and experience that anyone serious about regenerating local democracy should be encouraging into public service roles,” he said.

The LGIU hopes the consultation, which has now ended, will pave the way for a new, more sensible framework of rules similar to those in place in Scotland, which, it says, have restored democratic freedoms to many local government workers.