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Code of Conduct

The Model Code of Conduct
 

ENGLAND

Code of Conduct

Chapter 7 of Part 1 of the Localism Act 2011, which came into force on 1 July 2012, requires a “relevant authority” (which includes all types of local authority including parish and town councils) to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by members and co-opted members. Every relevant authority must adopt a code which is consistent with these principles: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. There is no mandatory code, but local government representative bodies like NALC have published suggested codes. The Department for Communities and Local Government has issued guidance entitled Openness and transparency on personal interests which can be viewed on the DCLG website via GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/publications/openness-and-transparency-on-personal-interests-guidance-for-councillors

The main points of a typical code (Oxfordshire County Council) are as follows:

Selflessness

You must serve only the public interest and must never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person including yourself.

Objectivity

In carrying out public business you must make decisions on merit, including when making appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits.

Accountability

You are accountable for your decisions and actions to the public and must submit yourself to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to your office.

Openness

You must be as open as possible about your actions and those of your council, and must be prepared to give reasons for those actions.

Honesty and integrity

You must not place yourself in situations where your honesty and integrity may be questioned, must not behave improperly and must on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.

Leadership

You must promote and support high standards of conduct when serving in your public post, in particular as characterised by the above requirements, by leadership and example in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.

A relevant authority may revise its existing code or adopt another one.

A principal authority must make arrangements for dealing with allegations of breaches of its code so that they can be investigated and decisions can be made about what action to take if a member is found to have broken the code. A local council does not have to make any such arrangements. There is no statutory sanction for breaking the code and no power for a relevant authority to suspend or disqualify a member.

Disclosable pecuniary interests

Every member of a relevant authority must declare any relevant pecuniary interests, called in the legislation “disclosable pecuniary interests”, he or she may have. The monitoring officer of the district or unitary authority in which a parish or town lies holds the register of such interests of the members of parish or town councils. The list of interests must be available for public inspection at all reasonable hours and be published on the authority’s website. If a local council has a website, details of those interests must be published there as well. Details of sensitive interests (see below) do not have to be disclosed but the register may state that a member has such an interest.

Disclosable pecuniary interests are prescribed by the Relevant Authorities (Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1464) and are as follows:

Subject

Prescribed description

Employment, office, trade, profession or vocation

Any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain.

Sponsorship

Any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the relevant authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by M in carrying out duties as a member, or towards the election expenses of M.

This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

Contracts

Any contract which is made between the relevant person (or a body in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest) and the relevant authority-

(a)  under which goods or services are to be provided or works executed; and

(b) which has not been fully discharged.

Land

Any beneficial interest in land within the area of the relevant authority.

Licences

Any licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy land in the area of the relevant authority for a month or longer.

Corporate tenancies

Any tenancy where (to M’s knowledge):

(a)  the landlord is the relevant authority; and

(b) the tenant is a body in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest.

Securities

Any beneficial interest in the securities of a body where:

(a)  that body (to M’s knowledge) has a place of business or land in the area of the relevant authority; and

(b)  either:

      i.  the total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body; or

    ii.  if the share capital of that body is of more than one class, the total nominal value of the shares of any one class in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest exceeds one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that class.

An interest is disclosable if it is that of a member, his or her spouse or civil partner, or a person living with a member as a spouse or civil partner.

A member who has an unregistered disclosable pecuniary interest in any matter must normally declare at a meeting of the council or of a committee or sub-committee or a joint committee that he or she has such an interest. The unregistered interest must be registered within 28 days of the disclosure. However, if the interest is sensitive, only the fact that the member has an interest – and not its nature – has to be declared. A sensitive interest is one where the member and the monitoring offer consider that disclosure of details of the interest could lead to the member, or a person connected to the member, being subject to violence or intimidation.

When a member has a registered disclosable interest and/or has declared an unregistered interest, the member must not take any part in discussion or voting on the matter in question. A standing order may provide for the exclusion of a member from a meeting while a matter in which he or she has declared an interest is being discussed or voted upon.

A relevant authority may, on receipt of a written request, grant a dispensation from either or both of the restrictions on participation and voting in relation to a disclosed interest. Before granting a dispensation the authority must have regard to all relevant circumstances, including:

  1. whether or not the business of the authority would be impeded because of the number of members who have disclosed interests. For example, if all those members with disclosed interests could neither speak nor vote the council or committee etc. might be inquorate;
  2. whether the party political balance of the authority would be affected (not normally relevant at local council level);
  3. whether or not granting the dispensation would be in the interests of people living in the area;
  4. whether or not it would otherwise be appropriate to grant a dispensation.

 

It is an offence, without reasonable excuse, to break any of the foregoing rules and to give false or misleading information regarding a disclosable interest. The maximum penalty on summary conviction (i.e. by a magistrates’ court) is a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (£5,000). In addition, the court may disqualify the convicted person from being a member of the relevant authority or any other authority for up to five years. A prosecution can only be instituted by or on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions and must be begun within 12 months from the date on which the prosecutor acquired sufficient evidence to warrant proceedings being taken against the member in question, but no more than three years after the commission of the alleged offence.

WALES

PART III of the Local Government Act 2000 gives the Welsh Assembly power to issue a model code of conduct for councillors and co-opted members. The current  Code was issued in March 2008 - the Conduct of Members (Model Code of Conduct of Members) (Wales) Order (SI 2001/2289) and came into force on 18 April 2008.

 General obligations: paragraphs 4 to 9 of the code

4.  You must:

(a)  carry out your duties and responsibilities with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of their gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion;

(b)  show respect and consideration for others;

( c )  not use bullying behaviour or harass anyone; and

(d)  not do anything which compromises, or which is likely to compromise, the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, your authority.

5.  You must not:

(a)  disclose confidential information, or information which should reasonably be regarded as of a confidential nature, without the express consent of a person authorised to give such consent, or unless required by law to do so;

(b)  prevent another person from gaining access to information to which that person is entitled by law

 

6.  You must:

(a)  not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute;

(b)  report, whether through your authority’s confidential reporting procedure or direct to the proper authority, any conduct by another member or anyone who works for, or on behalf of, your authority which you reasonably believe involves or is likely to involve criminal behaviour (which for the purposes of this paragraph does not include offences of behaviour capable of punishment by way of a fixed penalty);

( c )  report to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales and to your authority’s monitoring officer any conduct by another member which you reasonably believe breaches this code of conduct;

(d)  not to make vexatious, malicious or frivolous complaints against other members or anyone who works for, or on behalf of, your authority;

(e)  comply with any request of your authority’s monitoring officer, or the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, in connection with an investigation conducted in accordance with their respective statutory powers.

7.   You must not:

(a)  in your official capacity or otherwise use or attempt to use your position improperly to confer on or secure for yourself, or any other person, an advantage or create or avoid for yourself, or any other person, a disadvantage;

(b)  use, or authorise others to use, the resources of your authority:

  1. imprudently;
  2. in breach of your authority’s requirements
  3. unlawfully;
  4. other than in a manner which is calculated to facilitate, or to be conducive to, the discharge of the functions of the authority or of the office to which you have been elected or appointed;
  5. improperly for political purposes;
  6. improperly for private purposes.

 8.   You must:

(a)  when participating in meetings or reaching decisions regarding the business of your authority, do so on the basis of the merits of the circumstances involved and in the public interest having regard to any relevant advice provided by your authority’s officers, in particular by:

  1. the authority’s head of paid service;
  2. the authority’s chief finance officer;
  3. the authority’s monitoring officer;
  4. the authority’s chief legal officer (who should be consulted when there is any doubt as to the authority’s power to act, as to whether the action proposed lied within the policy framework agreed by the authority or where the legal consequences of action or failure to act by the authority might have important repercussions);

(b)  give reasons for all decisions in accordance with any statutory requirements and any reasonable additional requirements imposed by your authority.

9.   You must:

(a)  observe the law and your authority’s rules governing the claiming of expenses and allowances in connection with your duties as a member;

(b)  avoid accepting from anyone gifts, hospitality (other than official hospitality, such as a reception or a working lunch duly authorised by your authority), material benefits or services for yourself or any person which might place you, or reasonably appear to place you, under an improper obligation.

Interests

The interests which must be registered are set out Part 2 of the Code. They are as follows:

Personal interests

10.

(1)  You must in all matters consider whether you have a personal interest, and whether this code of conduct requires you to disclose that interest.

(2)  You must regard yourself as having a personal interest in any business of your authority if

(a)  it relates to, or is likely to affect:

  1.   i.    any employment or business carried on by you;
  2.   ii.    any person who employs or has appointed you, any firm in which you are a partner or any company for which you are a remunerated director;
  3.   iii.    any person, other than your authority, who has made a payment to you in respect of your election or any expenses incurred by you in carrying out your duties as a member;
  4.   iv.    any corporate body which has a place of business or land in your authority’s area, and in which you have a beneficial interest in a class of securities of that body that exceeds the nominal value of £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body;
  5.   v.    any contract for goods, services or works made between your authority and you or a firm in which you are a partner, a company of which you are a remunerated director, or a body of the description specified in sub-paragraph (iv) above;
  6.   vi.    any land in which you have a beneficial interest and which is in the area of your authority;
  7.   vii.    any land where the landlord is your authority and the tenant is a firm in which you are a partner, a company of which you are a remunerated director, or a body of the description specified in sub-paragraph (iv) above;
  8.   viii.    any body to which you have been elected, appointed or nominated by your authority;
  9.    ix.    any:

(aa)   public authority or body exercising functions of a public nature;

(bb)  company, industrial and provident society, charity, or body directed to charitable purposes;

(cc)  body whose principal purposes include the influence of public opinion or policy;

(dd)  trade union or professional association; or

(ee)  private club, society or association operating within your authority’s area, in which you have membership or hold a position of general control or management;

(x)  any land in your authority’s area in which you have a licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy for 28 days or longer;

 (b)  a member of the public might reasonably perceive a conflict between your role in taking a decision, upon that business, on behalf of your authority as a whole and your role in representing the interests of constituents in your ward or electoral division; or

 ( c ) a decision upon it might reasonably be regarded as affecting:

  1.  i.    your well-being or financial position, or that of a person with whom you live, or any person with whom you have a close personal association;
  2.  ii.    any employment or business carried on by persons as described in 10(2)©(i);
  3.   iii.    any person who employs or has appointed such persons described in 10(2)©(i), any firm in which they are a partner, or any company of which they are directors;
  4.   iv.    any corporate body in which persons as described in 10(2)©(i) have a beneficial interest in a class of securities exceeding the nominal value of £5,000; or
  5.   v.    any body listed in paragraphs 10(2)(a)(ix)(aa) to (ee) in which persons described in 10(2)©(i) hold a position of general control or management, to a greater extent than the majority of:

(aa)    in the case of an authority with electoral divisions or wards, other council tax payers, rate payers or inhabitants of the electoral division or ward, as the case may be, affected by the decision; or

(bb)    in all other cases, other council tax payers, ratepayers or inhabitants of the authority’s area.

 Disclosure of personal interests

11.    

(1)  Where you have a personal interest in any business of your authority and you attend a meeting at which that business is considered, you must disclose orally to that meeting the existence and nature of that interest before or at the commencement of that consideration, or when the interest becomes apparent.

 (2)  Where you have a personal interest in any business of your authority and you make:

(a)  written representations (whether by letter, facsimile or some other form of electronic communication) to a member or officer of your authority regarding that business, you should include details of that interest in the written communication; or

(b)  oral representations (whether in person or some form of electronic communication) to a member or officer of your authority you should disclose the interest at the commencement of such representations, or when it becomes apparent to you that you have such an interest, and confirm the representation and interest in writing within 14 days of the representation.

(3)  Subject to paragraph 14(1)(b) below, where you have a personal interest in any business of your authority and you have made a decision in exercising a function of an executive or board, you must in relation to that business ensure that any written statement of that decision records the existence and nature of your interest.

(4)  You must, in respect of a personal interest not previously disclosed, before or immediately after the close of a meeting where the disclosure is made pursuant to sub-paragraph 11(1), give written notification to your authority in accordance with any requirements identified by your authority’s monitoring officer from time to time but, as a minimum containing:

(a)  details of the personal interest;

(b)  details of the business to which the personal interest relates; and

( c )  your signature.

(5)  Where you have agreement from your monitoring officer that the information relating to your personal interest is sensitive information, pursuant to paragraph 16(1), your obligations under this paragraph 11 to disclose such information, whether orally or in writing, are to be replaced with an obligation to disclose the existence of a personal interest and to confirm that your monitoring officer has agreed that the nature of such personal interest is sensitive information.

(6)  For the purposes of sub-paragraph (4), a personal interest will only be deemed to have been previously disclosed if written notification has been provided in accordance with this code since the last date on which you were elected, appointed or nominated as a member of your authority.

(7)  For the purposes of sub-paragraph (3), where no written notice is provided in accordance with that paragraph you will be deemed as not to have declared a personal interest in accordance with this code.

Prejudicial interests

12.

(1)  Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, where you have a personal interest in any business of your authority you also have a prejudicial interest in that business if the interest is one which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice your judgement of the public interest.

(2)  Subject to sub-paragraph (3), you will not be regarded as having a prejudicial interest in any business where that business:

(a)  relates to:

  1. another relevant authority of which you are also a member;
  2. another public authority or body exercising functions of a public nature in which you hold a position of general control or management;
  3. a body to which you have been elected, appointed or nominated by your authority;
  4. your role as a school governor (where not appointed or nominated by your authority) unless it relates particularly to the school of which you are a governor;
  5. your role as a member of a Local Health Board where you have not been appointed or nominated by your authority;

(b)  relates to:

  1. the housing functions of your authority where you hold a tenancy or lease with your authority, provided that you do not have arrears of rent with your authority of more than two months, and provided that those functions do not relate particularly to your tenancy or lease;
  2. the functions of your authority in respect of school meals, transport and travelling expenses, where you are a guardian, parent, grandparent or have parental responsibility (as defined in section 3 of the Children Act 1989) of a child in full time education, unless it relates particularly to the school which that child attends;
  3. the functions of your authority in respect of statutory sick pay under Part XI of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, where you are in receipt of, or are entitled to the receipt of such pay from your authority;
  4. the functions of your authority in respect of an allowance or payment made under sections 22(5), 24(4) and 173 to 176 of the Local Government Act 1972, an allowance or pension under section 18 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 or an allowance or payment under section 100 of the Local Government Act 2000;

( c )  your role as a community councillor in relation to a grant, loan or other form of financial assistance made by your community council to community or voluntary organisations up to a maximum of £500.

(3)  The exemptions in subparagraph (2)(a) do not apply where the business relates to the determination of any approval, consent, licence, permission or registration.

[13. Does not apply to community councils.]

Participation in relation to disclosed interests

14.

(1)  Subject to sub-paragraphs (2), (3) and (4), where you have a prejudicial interest in any business of your authority you must, unless you have obtained a dispensation from your authority’s standards committee:

(a)  withdraw from the room, chamber or place where a meeting considering the business is being held:

  1. where sub-paragraph (2) applies, immediately after the period for making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business has ended and in any event before further consideration of the business begins, whether or not the public are allowed to remain in attendance for such consideration; or
  2. in any other case, whenever it becomes apparent that that business is being considered at that meeting;

(b)  not exercise executive or board functions in relation to that business;

( c )  not seek to influence a decision about that business;

(d)  not make any written representations (whether by letter, facsimile or some other form of electronic communication) in relation to that business; and

(e)  not make any oral representations (whether in person or some form of electronic communication) in respect of that business or immediately cease to make such oral representations when the prejudicial interest becomes apparent.

(2)  Where you have a prejudicial interest in any business of your authority you may attend a meeting but only for the purpose of making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business, provided that the public are also allowed to attend the meeting for the same purpose, whether under a statutory right or otherwise.

(3)  Sub-paragraph (1) does not prevent you attending and participating in a meeting if:

(a)  you are required to attend a meeting of an overview or scrutiny committee, by such committee exercising its statutory powers; or

(b)  you have the benefit of a dispensation provided that you:

  1. i.    state it the meeting that you are relying on the dispensation; and
  2. ii.    before or immediately after the close of the meeting give written notification to your authority containing:

(aa)  details of the prejudicial interest;

(bb)  details of the business to which the prejudicial interest relates;

(cc)  details of, and the date on which, the dispensation was granted; and

(dd)  your signature.

(4)  Where you have a prejudicial interest and are making written or oral representations to your authority in reliance upon a dispensation, you must provide details of the dispensation within any such written or oral representation and, in the latter case, provide written notification to your authority within 14 days of making the representation.

Part 4 - the register of members’ interests

Registration of financial and other interests and memberships and management positions

15.

(1)  Subject to sub-paragraph (3), you must, within 28 days of:

(a)  your authority’s code of conduct being adopted or the mandatory provisions of this model code being applied to your authority; or

(b)  your election or appointment to office (if that is later), register your financial interests and other interests, where they fall within a category mentioned in paragraph 10(2)(a) in your authority’s register maintained under section 81(1) of the Local Government Act 2000 by providing written notification to your authority’s monitoring officer.

(2)  You must, within 28 days of becoming aware of any new personal interest or change to any personal interest registered under sub-paragraph (1), register that new personal interest or change by providing written notification to your authority’s monitoring officer.

(3)  Sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) do not apply to sensitive information determined in accordance with paragraph 16(1).

(4)  Sub-paragraph (1) will not apply if you are a member of a relevant authority which is a community council when you act in your capacity as a member of such an authority.

Sensitive information

16.

(1)  Where you consider that the information relating to any of your personal interests is sensitive information, and your authority’s monitoring officer agrees, you need not include that information when registering that interest, or, as the case may be, a change to the interest under paragraph 15.

(2)  You must, within 28 days of becoming aware of any change of circumstances which means that information excluded under sub-paragraph (1) is no longer sensitive information, notify your authority’s monitoring officer asking that the information be included in your authority’s register of members’ interests.

(3)  In this code, “sensitive information” (“gwybodaeth sensitif”) means information whose availability for inspection by the public creates, or is likely to create, a serious risk that you or a person who lives with you may be subjected to violence or intimidation.

Registration of gifts and hospitality

17. You must, within 28 days of receiving any gift, hospitality, material benefit or advantage above a value specified in a resolution of your authority, provide written notification to your authority’s monitoring officer of the existence and nature of that gift, hospitality, material benefit or advantage.

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Written by Paul Clayden, Chief Executive of the Local Councils Advisory service

As appeared in Clerks & Councils Direct Yearbook, January 2013

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