Graham Report - 10th report into public standards
The Graham Report
has now been released.
I welcome the publication of the 10th Report into Public Standards. This report recognises that the current procedures where councillors have been sacked for:
- sitting in a meeting with a constituent without saying they are a councillor (Coleen Gill-East Riding-Lib Dem)
- writing to an MP (Coleen Gill-East Riding-Lib Dem)
- taking the wrong route out of a dinner (Blackpool-Labour)
- agreeing to the erection of gates (Tameside-Labour)
- representing a constituent as a solicitor (Tory)
- saying F**k - amongst other things (Peterborough-Tory)
- issuing a leaflet complaining about lack of action on anti social behaviour (Hull-Independent)
- revealing an officer's salary (Yorkshire somewhere - SDP)
- revealing an unlawful payment to a nuclear power company (Lancaster-Green)
It is important, however, that any changes fully recognise that the role of the councillor is to hold the system to account. If people are rude from time to time then they should apologise. We should not have local representatives that are merely clones there to defend the bureaucracy. The Standards Board for England is used frequently as a threat by Council Officers to prevent Councillors from challenging the bureaucracy. This has to stop.
Clearly corruption cannot be allowed. However, the current rules have acted more to prevent democracy from operating than to maintain standards.
What happened with the current system is that it delvered something to protect the bureaucrats from challenge. Hopefully we can move back towards a proper democratic system which is accountable to the voters and where only real corruption is subject to sanction.
There have been a small number of cases through the Standards and Adjudication Process that were entirely valid. One I can think of is one in Walsall where a councillor interfered with the actual tenders for a building. Although the motivation there was good and the councillor obtained no personal gain, that was in fact wrong.
However, a substantial number have been not only wrong, but counter productive and anti-democratic.