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Watchdog presses Secretary of State over lack of government response to January 2019 report on local government ethical standards

The Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), Lord Evans, has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, asking when it will receive a formal government response to its January 2019 report Local Government Ethical Standards.

In the letter Lord Evans said he had not received a reply to a letter he wrote in October 2019 to Luke Hall MP, then Minister for Local Government and Homelessness, asking when the committee might receive the government’s formal response.

The CSPL chairman wrote: “I do of course understand the urgent priorities that local government is facing at the moment, and I don’t wish to put any additional burden on the Ministry.

“But, at this time of crisis, demonstrable high standards are as important as ever to help maintain trust between government and the public. With that in mind, it would be very helpful to know when we might receive the government's response to our report.”

Key recommendations in Local Government Ethical Standards included that local authorities be given the power to suspend councillors without allowances for up to six months.

The CSPL said the current sanctions available to local authorities were insufficient. “Party discipline, whilst it has an important role to play in maintaining high standards, lacks the necessary independence and transparency to play the central role in a standards system.”

The report added: “The current lack of robust sanctions damages public confidence in the standards system and leaves local authorities with no means of enforcing lower level sanctions, nor of addressing serious or repeated misconduct.”

In a separate letter sent by the CSPL secretariat this month (July 2020) to local authority chief executives in England, the committee said it would be writing to councils in the autumn to ask them for their progress against the 15 best practice recommendations contained in Local Government Ethical Standards.

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