Toothless? Telford & Wrekin Council's code of conduct under the spotlight
The Telford & Wrekin councillors’ code of conduct and disciplinary process is “relatively toothless”, and there is a risk members of the public may develop “unreasonable expectation” of them, a report says.
Telford's council standards committee will meet tomorrow to discuss whether to change its rules, following recommendations by the UK-wide Committee on Standards in Public Life.
Jonathan Eatough, the borough’s chief monitoring officer, also says in his report that the borough’s code of conduct is a “very high-level” document whose definition of bullying and harrassment might be considered insufficient by the advisory government body.
Mr Eatough writes that the CSPL consulted on local government ethical standards in 2018 and produced a “high-qualiy, evidence-based report demonstrating a real understanding of the current position in respect of governance and conduct”.
He adds: “The report makes 15 best-practice recommendations for local authorities that can be implemented in the absence of legislative change.”
One CSPL recommendation is that “local authorities should include prohibitions on bullying and harassment, including a definition, supplemented with a list of examples of the sort of behaviour covered by such a definition.”
The proposed response given in Mr Eatough’s report is: “The council’s current code of conduct is a very high-level document and does not go into this level of detail.
“This type of issue between members and officers is dealt with in the member/office protocol.
“Members’ views are sought on whether a specific provision is added to the code.”
The CSPL also recommend “principal authorities should review their code of conduct each year and regularly seek, where possible, the views of the public, community organisations and neighbouring authorities”.
The proposed response reads: “Members’ views are sought on the extent to which this can/should be done in the absence of sanctions in the existing regime.
“The current regime is relatively toothless and lacks credibility.
“In the absence of change, consultation would help raise awareness of the standards regime but might create unreasonable expectation and discredit, rather than enhance, the reputation of local government.
“However, colleagues could certainly approach colleagues in Shropshire [Council] and local town and parish councils to develop a regular review process.”
The seven-member standards committee will discuss Mr Eatough’s report when it meets on Tuesday.