Headlines: September 4th, 2006



The chief executives of two big city councils will be giving evidence this week at the latest public hearing organised by the Committee on Standards in Public Life as part of its Review of The Electoral Commission. The inquiry is looking at key themes the committee believes are critical to public trust in the democratic system through a review of the mandate, governance and accountability of the Commission.

The session will take place on Thursday, when matters under review include the integrity and application of current arrangements for political party funding and the implications of any changes; electoral propriety including voter registration, electoral administration and electoral fraud and the way these issues affect the way voters perceive the political process.

Witnesses on Thursday will include Ged Fitzgerald, the Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council and Paul Rogerson, his opposite number at Leeds City Council. Other witnesses will be Members of Parliament, including Peter Viggers from the Speakers Committee, Lord Holme and Clare Ettinghausen, the Chief Executive of the Hansard Society.

This week’s session is the first of three to be held this month in London and follows eight public hearings that have taken place in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh. When the hearings are complete the Committee will consider all the evidence and it plans to publish its conclusions and recommendations before the end of this year.

The Committee says its inquiry is taking place against a background of public concerns particularly about arrangements for postal voting following some high-profile cases and concerns over safeguards for voter registration, as well as the issue of loans to political parties as a way of circumventing regulations on donations.The witnesses have been invited to assist the Committee in examining the current responsibilities of The Electoral Commission, set up five years ago following the fifth report of the Committee in 1998. The Commission, an independent body, was set up to promote integrity, effectiveness and participation in the democratic process.