Rob Smith, SLCC Chief Executive, Steve Trice, SLCC Chairman, Linda Larter MBE FSLCC, SLCC President, and Lee Dunkley FSLCC, SLCC Director (South West), are continuing the important work on standards and behaviour with meetings of the recently formed Civility in the Sector Working Group. The Group, which includes county officers, clerks and councillors, aims to produce an effective and meaningful resource to address the issue of standards of behaviour in the sector. SLCC Chairman, Steve Trice said, ‘The working group meetings have been productive and we are working hard to move this important issue forward. We are optimistic that this joint approach with dedicated resource will further strengthen the new resources such as the Code of Conduct and toolkit to support clerks and monitoring officers who are experiencing problems with standards and behaviour.’
SLCC and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) continue to press Government for robust measures in the form of suspension and disqualification aimed at improving standards as also highlighted in the 2021 Survey on Standards and Behaviour. The level of respondents reporting behavioural difficulties in this survey remained largely unchanged from the 2018 survey, however the percentage of complaints being pursued through the existing standards regime dropped dramatically from 42% in 2018 to 14% in 2021, suggesting a lack of confidence in the process with potential complainants choosing to simply walk away from the sector.
A recently launched, independent petition supported by many including, most recently, Jackie Weaver, Cheshire Association of Local Councils, which closely aligns with the strategic aims of SLCC, is calling for legislation to be introduced to enable the suspension or disqualification of councillors for breaching the Code of Conduct. As the petition states, most councillors maintain high standards of conduct, but a significant minority engage in unacceptable behaviour.
Linda Larter MBE FSLCC, Chief Executive, Sevenoaks Town Council said, ‘As we know, unacceptable behaviour by even a small number of people, can seriously damage the well-being of a council and those trying to serve their communities. Whilst I personally support this petition, I am also mindful that we must never lose sight of the more important work being undertaken by SLCC and NALC to permanently eradicate this type of intolerable behaviour.’