Monitoring Officers get defence scheme

Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) has launched a Monitoring Officer Defence Scheme in partnership with law firm Weightmans.

LLG said the new full member benefit would apply to monitoring officers or their deputies when acting in that capacity and was designed to provide advice and assistance with issues relating to the statutory role.
The offer includes a telephone advice line, a conference meeting and preferential terms in tribunal proceedings.

The scheme will run under the experienced lead of Simon Goacher, a partner at Weightmans.

Prior to joining Weightmans, Goacher spent nearly two decades practising local government law. His roles included Head of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer at Wirral Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council

Full terms and conditions of use are available in the member section of the LLG website at”

The public who take their cases to Monitoring Officers get the toothless, pretty-much-useless Local Government Ombudsman.

And should Monitoring Officers really need such help – if they don’t understand their statutory role and its responsibilities, why are they in the job in the first place?

“Independent Person” needed for EDDC Standards Committee

Fancy dealing with what EDDC decides are its naughtiest parish, town and district councillors and being involved in the process of ever-so-lightly rapping their knuckles and/or sending them on rehabilitative training (since no other sanctions exist)?

EDDC is seeking to recruit what they call an “Independent Person” to join its Standards Committee. However, not so independent that they can over-ride the Monitoring Officer or even vote about the outcome of cases – just be there as an “independent” observer.

Advertisements appear in this week’s local press and the closing date for applications is 19 February 2016.

The process for dealing with recruitment of this very, very special person was shrouded in mystery – however, a Freedom of information request in 2011 threw light on the process:

Unfortunately, the vacancy does not appear in EDDC’s online list of current vacancies. Interested parties are told they can contact Monitoring Officer Henry Gordon-Lennox 01395 517408 for more information.

You must not be a relative or close friend of an officer or member of EDDC and you must not have served as an officer of any local authority in the last 5 years. Previous applicants are told they cannot apply.

Owl has been thinking of filling in an application form …

One thought: it says that the person must not be a close relative or friend of any officer or member of EDDC. However, there is now so much close working with Exeter City Council, Teignbridge and the like, could there not be conflicts of interest from even wider circles these days.

What if a member of the Local Enterprise Partnership were to apply, for example!

Ethical standards in public life

Owl would add some of the comments from this report, but its blood pressure can’t cope … well, ok, maybe just one:

Evidence of internal control and accountability measures – what is the internal control environment for maintaining ethical behaviour and standards in the organisation?

A suitable code of conduct – typically a series of Do’s and Don’ts, publicly available and adherence to the code monitored.

Identification of key indicators or measures of an ethical culture within the organisation and periodic reviews of their effectiveness.

Existence of and adherence to whistleblowing policy or speak up mechanisms, gifts and hospitality registers, anti-bribery and corruption, declarations of interests requirements, procedures for dealing with conflicts of interest, which are regularly reviewed.

Ethical risks captured and controlled in the risk management process and evidence they have been identified, assessed and where required mitigated.

Transparency and reporting arrangements which encourages “intelligent accountability” putting out good quality information in intelligible and adaptable formats creating a genuine dialogue with stakeholders.”

Click to access 6.1291_CO_LAL_Ethical_standards_of_public_life_report_Interactive__2_.pdf

“Parliament’s expenses watchdog hiding names of MPs being investigated for misusing public money”

“Rules dictate that MPs under investigation for unjustified or fraudulent expense claims must be publicly identified.

…Under rules set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), MPs under investigation for unjustified or fraudulent expense claims must be publicly identified.

But the organisation’s compliance officer, Peter Davis, has avoided naming individuals by carrying out detailed “assessments” of the complaints, denying they amount to formal “investigations”.

The loophole last week allowed Mr Davis to refer two MPs to the police over expenses fraud without ever launching a formal investigation, which would have triggered a public announcement.

It has also allowed other MPs to avoid publicity about using taxpayer-funded websites for party-political material by paying back website domain fees to Ipsa, or simply removing content from sites.

Ipsa previously proposed conducting probes in secret to prevent “reputational damage” to MPs – but the idea was dropped after criticism from the Commons Standards Committee and Committee for Standards in Public Life. It now appears that Ipsa is using “assessments” to get around calls for transparency.

According to a breakdown of cases, released by Mr Davis’s office in response to a Freedom of Information request, 40 “assessments” of allegations against politicians were carried out in 2014-15. But just one – relating to Conservative MP Bob Blackman’s mileage claims – was classified as a formal investigation and disclosed publicly.

Among those listed as “closed prior to an investigation” was a case in June last year where an unnamed MP claimed for a taxi journey that was not allowable. The compliance office concluded it had been a “legitimate error by a member of staff” and said it had been “repaid in full”.

In another case, an allegation was made that an MP’s staff had filed duplicate claims for a hotel. Mr Davis considered the matter closed after “the MP provided a valid explanation for why two separate hotels were claimed inadvertently for the same night and… repaid”.

Parliament’s “Monitoring Officer” investigates only 10% of complaints

“The Commons standards commissioner investigates just one in ten complaints about MPs, it can be disclosed.

Kathryn Hudson’s office has been asked to consider almost 300 formal complaints by members of the public and other MPs in more than two years but has opened just 29 investigations, a Telegraph analysis has found.

Mrs Hudson was this week left facing fresh questions over her judgment when a High Court judge found that Tim Yeo, an MP she cleared, was willing to act in breach of Commons rules.”

Parliament’s “Monitoring Officer” severely criticised

So what hope for district council monitoring officers getting it right?

Former sleaze watchdog questions whether Kathryn Hudson “applied sufficient rigour and detailed analysis” when she cleared the ex-minister

Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary standards commissioner, is facing fresh questions over her judgment after a High Court judge found that an MP she cleared was willing to act in breach of Commons rules.

A former sleaze watchdog said that the ruling against Tim Yeo cast potential doubt on Mrs Hudson’s findings and highlighted the need for reform of the system regulating the behaviour of MPs.

Mrs Hudson ruled in 2013 that Mr Yeo did not have “an expectation of financial interest” when he met undercover reporters so could not have broken the MPs’ code when he offered to approach ministers on behalf of their fictitious client. She said there was “no evidence” that he had made such an offer.

However Mr Justice Warby, who examined the Commons rules, said it was clear from the evidence that the then chairman of the Commons energy committee was prepared “to do things which, if they had been done, would clearly have involved breaches of the code”, including that he had expressed a willingness to “approach ministers and civil servants” to benefit his prospective clients.

The judge also accused Mr Yeo of being “dishonest” in claiming in his evidence that he was joking when he appeared to suggest in the meeting that he had coached a business associate to give evidence to his committee.

Mr Yeo had made a similar claim to Mrs Hudson, who simply concluded that the remark “if intended as a joke, was unfortunate”. She cleared Mr Yeo of breaching the rules on lobbying ministers for financial reward and of bringing the Commons into disrepute.

On Wednesday Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the ruling raised questions about whether Mrs Hudson had “applied sufficient rigour and detailed analysis when she was considering the allegations against Mr Yeo”.

Sir Alistair added that the contrast between the judgment and Mrs Hudson’s conclusions showed the need for “urgent reform” of the Commons standards committee, which approved her memo and published a full report exonerating Mr Yeo.
Mrs Hudson faced criticism earlier this year after ruling that Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind did not break lobbying rules in a “cash for access” scandal exposed by the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches.

She also recently declined to open an investigation into Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, after receiving a complaint over his role in the decision to question Lord Brittan over an historic rape allegation.” …

EDDC wants extra complaints officer – but only for a year

Do they know something we don’t know?

Oh, and it’s a busy job:

“It is essential that you have excellent communication, organisational and time management skills. You must also have the ability to work without supervision and use your own initiative, as you will be dealing with complaints and requests for information from members of the public on a daily basis.”

Corruption in the UK (Updated)

A few excerpts from an article in the New Statesman :

“The last prime minister to make a fortune out of public office was Lloyd George. Today’s cabinet ministers earn middle-class salaries, and most of them live in modest houses. So why do people think otherwise?”

“Corruption in British public life can be divided schematically into three phases. Until the 19th century men entered politics in ­order to enrich themselves and to reward their dependants. Samuel Pepys was a senior civil servant at the Admiralty. His diaries in the 1660s are a squalid record of how he accepted endless financial and sexual favours in return for awarding contracts and arranging promotions. Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister, amassed a prodigious fortune.

“For reasons that are still not well understood, something fundamental changed in Britain in the Victorian period. Gladstonian liberalism brought moral rectitude to national life. The sale of military commissions was abolished. The Northcote/Trevelyan reforms led to the creation of an impartial civil service, with promotion by merit rather than nepotism. The Victorians consolidated the idea of the public domain, a sphere where the common good rather than self-interest and greed was paramount.

“Of course corruption continued, because human nature is venal. But it was no longer part of the system of government. Corrupt public officials were now rogue elements, who were sent to jail and held up to public scorn if they were caught.  …

“David Whyte, professor of socio-legal studies at the University of Liverpool, challenges this complacency in How Corrupt Is Britain?, an ambitious collection of essays. Professor Whyte maintains that only a “residual racism” prevents us from acknow­ledging that we are corrupt on the scale of southern Europe, Afghanistan or Russia. Corruption is once more embedded in British public life, Whyte asserts…

“These are extremely large claims and Whyte endeavours to substandestrtiate them by citing all kinds of malfeasance: phone-hacking, the LIBOR banking scandals, child abuse allegations, the manipulation of evidence by police over the Hillsborough disaster, the 2013 horse meat labelling scandal, and so forth. Corruption, he concludes, is “a central mode of power-mongering in contemporary Britain”.

“The same applies to police misconduct, the subject of several other essays in this book. The police have largely not been subject to the same sorts of pressure to adapt to market forces as have been brought to bear on the NHS, schools and the welfare state. Episodes such as Hillsborough are horrifying, but cannot be laid at the door of Milton Friedman. In any case, police corruption dates back to well before the neoliberal revolution, as the Mark report into Met corruption during the 1970s shows.”

Try this report as well Corruption_in_UK_Local_Government-_The_Mounting_Risks

A report from The Independent