Headlines: January 20th, 2005

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has looked back to find out how effective its ten years of work has been. It found that more needs to be done to restore public trust in those appointed to public office and that arrangements for dealing with complaints about local councillors need radical reform.The publication of its report follows closely on the launch of the Good Governance Standards by the Independent Commission, but neither have acknowledged the work of the other. Both bodies have worked on parallel tracks to an almost identical timescale and their work has considerable areas of overlap. Sir Alistair Graham, Chairman of the Committee on Standards said: There are no plans to share in the programme of conferences planned to promote the Good Governance Standards.

To counter a widespread perception of cronyism in appointments to public bodies the Committee recommends the setting up of a new Board of Public Appointments Commissioners. It also calls for central departments to publish their appointment record and future policy and practice.

The Committee found that the Standards Board for England, which handles complaints about people in local government, has become bogged down with a large number of minor, vexatious and politically motivated complaints. The resulting investigations have left many members with allegations hanging over their heads for long periods of time. The report emphasises that despite incidences of corruption and misbehaviour the vast majority of councillors and officers observe high standards of conduct. The Committee recommends that the Standards Board should move to a strategic role and that complaints should be dealt with locally, in all but the most serious cases.