Monitoring Officer Update and Localism Act 2011
The Monitoring Officer to present report LD.336 and update members on the current status of the Localism Act 2011.
The Monitoring Officer Marie Rosenthal presented her report and updated the committee on the Localism Act 2011. She advised that this was a significant piece of legislation and after much debate and many amendments especially in the House of Lords,the Localism Bill received Royal Assent on 15 November 2011, She referred to the Plain English guide to the Act that was attached to the agenda.
The Monitoring Officer Marie Rosenthal, advised that commencement dates for bringing the Act into force would be published over the next twelve months and that regulations would also have to be made to set out the details of changes and guidance was also expected. The Standards for England would be abolished, local authorities would still have to have a Code of Conduct. At the request of parish councils the district councils could recommend their Code of Conduct to town and parish councils.
The Monitoring Officer Marie Rosenthal, informed the committee that the Act would introduce two new types of interest pecuniary and interests other than pecuniary. Both types have to be registered with the council. Regulations would be published setting out definitions of the interests in the New Year. The Act would create new criminal offences relating to the registration of interests and participating in any discussion or vote where there was a pecuniary interest. Offences would also be committed if a person provided false or misleading information in relation to interests. Those offences could be punished by fine and/or disqualification from office for a period of up to five years.
Independent member John Harvey commented that he foresees problems if and when cases were dealt with through the courts.
Independent member Mike Jones said he had read through most of the Localism Act and believed that the committee was discussing the Act too prematurely.
Independent member Tony Elkington asked after assessing a complaint and the councillor was found guilty what would the punishment be under the new regime.
The Monitoring Officer Marie Rosenthal, replied most likely a censure.
Parish Council representative Mary McGhee asked when the Act is introduced who the parish council would complain to.
The Monitoring Officer Marie Rosenthal, replied that we would have to await the detail in the regulations.
District Councillor Paul Hiett believed that the Act would cause all sorts of problems, and it was much worse than when the Standards Board for England started.
Independent member Alan Robertson asked who would make the complaints to the CPS regarding not declaring interests etc. He also enquired that at the last meeting it was agreed a working group would be set up to look at the future of the Standards Committee and believed that there was no reason to delay this.
The Monitoring Officer Marie Rosenthal, stated that a provisional date for a working party meeting had been set but then postponed until the Act and detailed regulations were available. She also advised that it was not yet clear in the Act how prosecutions would be brought but believed that the Director of Public Prosecutions would take an active part. She said that as soon as she received the regulations and guidance a document would be prepared for a working group to consider and then it would be produced at the Standards Committee meeting in March 2012, and then it would be presented at the Full Council meeting in April.
As soon as information was received regarding regulations a Working Group would be set up to discuss the future of the Standards Committee. With a view to reporting back to the committee in March 2012.