Headlines: July 18th, 2006

The majority of complaints about breaches of standards in public life are now being dealt with at a local level, according to the annual report of the Standards Board for England. The devolution of responsibility for the ethical agenda and increased local ownership are the key themes in the review.It says most cases are now being dealt with locally and there are plans for the introduction of a system of local assessment of complaints by 2008.The Standards Board says it is committed to increasing the number of investigations at a local level and providing training, support and guidanceto local authorities to help make this possible.

The review looks at the change in the Board’s work as it becomes a strategic regulator of the ethical framework and encourages growing responsibility at local level. It also looks at the Board’s achievements in the last 12 months, which it lists as a successful consultation and review of the Code of Conduct, which is now awaiting implementation by government; the initial assessment time for complaints being reduced to nine working days and effective partnership working with other local government organisations, developing an ethical governance toolkit for authorities.

Sir Anthony Holland, the chair of the Standards Board, said the year had been one of continuing change and devolution for both the Board and local government. “We support the move for greater local ownership of the system, which will ensure that local communities receive the accountability that they expect and deserve,” he said.

The Board would continue to switch the focus of its work from the investigation of cases towards the provision and maintenance of a national framework of support to help local authorities to ensure high standards locally.