Headlines: November 11th, 2008

Trust and accountability in local government are to come under the scrutiny of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. It has announced that the subject of its twelfth inquiry will be ‘Local Leadership and Public Trust: Accountability and Transparency in London and Local Government’.

It will study structures and models within local government across the United Kingdom and in London. It will also examine the ways that decisions are made and scrutinised, how office holders are held to account and whether the different models of local government command public trust.

An issues and questions paper will be published by the Committee in the next few weeks along with a call for written evidence from interested parties. It will then stage a series of hearings across the country in the New Year with the intention of publishing its report next autumn.

Sir Christopher Kelly, who chairs the Committee, said he was keen to look at the new structures put in place at the start of the decade to see if they had achieved their aims of promoting better leadership and greater accountability as well as raising standards and improving public trust. “As well as looking at the Mayoral system in London, we will be looking at the other twelve directly elected Mayor models, the Cabinet system within some local councils, and the Committee structure found in others, to see how they work within the constitutional and ethical landscape,” he explained.

The Committee felt that this was the right time for the inquiry as the changes had been in place for eight years. “We will want to assess how well local government structures reflect, both in theory and in practice, the Seven Principles of Public Life,” Sir Christopher said and added, “Local government matters. It spends billions of pounds and is responsible for so many of the local services required by all of us. The Committee will want to explore whether the structures are as good as they might be to ensure robust decision-making that commands public confidence and trust.”