“Audit committee calls for review of threshold for misconduct in public office offences”

Again, plenty Owl could might add here!

“The chair of a local authority’s audit and risk assurance committee has written to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to express concern at the “extremely high threshold” for consideration of Misconduct in Public Office offences.

The letter sent by Cllr Liam Preece of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough came after the local authority had referred certain allegations about some elected members to the police.

However, the police – following a review of the evidence held by the council – reached a determination that there was insufficient evidence to meet the threshold for recording a crime.

Cllr Preece said that the audit and risk assurance committee had accepted the police’s decision, “but were ultimately concerned that there is an extremely high threshold for consideration of Misconduct in Public Office offences which in turn could lead to a lack of public confidence in the process”.

He added in the letter, which can be viewed here, that the committee hoped that the relevant guidance issued to police forces in relation to the threshold criteria for such offences could be reviewed.

“The Committee feel that in cases of multiple serious breaches of the code of conduct, the police should feel more justified to bring charges against elected members to restore and maintain public confidence,” Cllr Preece told the DPP.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34242%3Aaudit-committee-calls-for-review-of-threshold-for-misconduct-in-public-office-offences&catid=59&Itemid=27

Some Standards Committee chairs are better than others!

Standards – what standards?

“A Conservative councillor who defended the disgraced Presidents Club and accused the Financial Times of exaggerating the behaviour of its guests at a men-only dinner is being forced to stand down from a senior role.

Tina Knight’s comments on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine programme, in which she dismissed reports of widespread groping at the event and said that the “real harassment” took place at women-only functions, prompted a furious online reaction and a protest over the weekend.

Vine interviewed Knight, the chair of the standards committee at Uttlesford council in Essex, and Madison Marriage, the FT reporter who went undercover as a hostess and reported allegations of sexual harassment that left some hostesses in tears.

Knight said any hostess at the event would have to be a “real airhead” not to expect “ribald” behaviour of the kind she knew from her rugby club in Saffron Walden. She said to Marriage: “You’re obviously a reporter because you are exaggerating … If she’s upset that’s one thing; she should not be speaking for others.

“If you want to know real harassment then you go to a women-only function and you see real behaviour that would absolutely make men look like saints … This belittles real sexual harassment … rape and that sort of thing … when somebody can’t deal with a drunken man.”

She said the £2m raised for charity at the event was “astounding”, and claimed men were more generous and competitive when “imbibed with lots of liquor”.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/18/ambulances-stuck-at-ae-unable-to-respond-quickly-to-999-calls

“Sleaze watchdog to look at tighter curbs for councillors”

” … The inquiry comes after a government adviser warned that the Coalition “threw out the baby with the bathwater” when it abolished the controversial Standards Board for England that enforced a nationwide code of conduct for councillors.

Dr Jane Martin, the member of the Committee leading the inquiry says she “regularly receives correspondence” from the public expressing concern about councillors’ behaviour. …

There are concerns that council standards committees can only “censure” politicians, rather than suspend them in the most serious cases. …”

Source: Sunday Telegraph

Owl says: once again, too little too late:

See and hear our own disgraced Tory ex-councillor Graham Brown (ex-chief of the equally disgraced council-run East Devon Business Forum) explaining that “if I can’t get planning, nobody will” but that he won’t work for peanuts:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9920971/If-I-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-says-Devon-councillor-and-planning-consultant.html

and the chapter on East Devon in Anna Minton’s Spinwatch report “Scaring the living daylights out of people – the local lobby and the failure of democracy”:

https://www.annaminton.com/single-post/2016/03/21/Scaring-The-Living-Daylights-Out-Of-People

“Watchdog launches review of local government ethical standards”

The call for evidence closes at 5 pm on 18 May 2018. Owl is fairly sure that there will be LOTS of evidence in East Devon!

“The Committee on Standards in Public Life has launched a review of local government ethical standards with a call for evidence.

The terms of reference for the review are to:

examine the structures, processes and practices in local government in England for:

– maintaining codes of conduct for local councillors
– investigating alleged breaches fairly and with due process
– enforcing codes and imposing sanctions for misconduct
– declaring interests and managing conflicts of interest
– whistleblowing

assess whether the existing structures, processes and practices are conducive to high standards of conduct in local government

make any recommendations for how they can be improved

note any evidence of intimidation of councillors, and make recommendations for any measures that could be put in place to prevent and address such intimidation

The review will consider all levels of local government in England, including town and parish councils, principal authorities, combined authorities (including Metro Mayors) and the Greater London Authority (including the Mayor of London).

The review will be led by committee member Dr Jane Martin CBE. She said: “Robust arrangements to support ethical standards are needed to safeguard local democracy and facilitate the representative process, but also to ensure high standards of conduct by councillors. The Committee considers it is timely to undertake a health check of local government so the public can have confidence that the standards arrangements supporting local democracy are working effectively.

“The Committee has maintained a longstanding interest in local government ethical standards, and regularly receives correspondence from members of the public expressing their concern about this issue.”

Dr Martin added: “We are keen to hear first-hand how effective councils’ standards arrangements are, in light of the substantial changes in the standards landscape for local government over the last ten years.

“We are interested in how local authorities have designed their complaints handling, scrutiny and sanctions regimes in order to maintain excellent ethical standards and how members, local government officials and the public experience them.

“The Committee would like to hear from councils and individuals who can help us understand how ethical standards issues are dealt with by local authorities.”

The call for evidence closes at 5 pm on 18 May 2018.

The CSPL said that, based on the submissions to the review and meetings with key stakeholders, it intended to publish its findings and recommendations late in 2018.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php

Tory ex-Ministers hawk their influence for cash

Owl says: Does this disgraceful behaviour go top down, bottom up – or both? Owlis of the opinion it is the latter!

Former cabinet ministers have been exposed attempting to profit from a new cash for Brexit gravy train in Westminster, following an undercover investigation.

Lord Lansley, the former health secretary, was secretly filmed offering to use his knowledge and connections from within West­minster to provide “intelligence” on Brexit to a Chinese company offering him tens of thousands of pounds.

The peer, who has previously been accused of “ripping the heart” out of a bill to regulate lobby­ing, showed he was willing to pick up information from a key Brexit cabinet minister. He advised how the deal could be kept secret from the authorities by employing him through his wife’s company.

Peter Lilley, the former deputy Conservative Party leader, was also willing to approach key ministers on the Chinese company’s behalf. As part of his pitch for the job he described how he attended two advisory groups with influence over the Brexit minis­ters, one of which has never previously been revealed.

A third former minister, Andrew Mitchell MP, also appeared happy to give paid Brexit advice to the Chinese company. He charges £6,000 a day and disclosed that he was looking to work up to 10 weeks a year for private clients despite being paid £74,962 as an MP. “My constituents don’t mind what I’m paid,” he said.

The three men were secretly filmed as part of a joint undercover investigation by The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches into politicians improperly making money from Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union. …”

[there follows several pages of sleazy revelations]

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

“Nick Clegg claims £115,000 annual expenses allowance previously only granted to former Prime Ministers”

“Sir Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister, has reportedly claimed almost £115,000 from an expenses allowance previously only granted to former Prime Ministers.

The former leader of the Liberal Democrats was given access to the public duty cost allowance after the 2015 general election.

The allowance provides for the office and secretarial costs for former premiers. …

… A recommendation to give him a reduced rate under the allowance was ignored, according to an internal memo released under freedom of information laws and reported by The Sunday Times. …”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nick-clegg-claims-annual-expenses-allowance-deputy-prime-minister-liberal-democrats-public-duty-cost-a8158781.html

Another LEP, similar to our own, has serious questions to be answered

Owl has only just come across this article from August 2017, but how interesting!

“Controversial LEP Chairman combines top jobs for himself at Board, Executive and Sub-committee levels

The roles of Chair and Chief Executive have been combined and Mark Reeve is now the Executive Chairman of the LEP, the local body allocated £150 million of public money.

In addition it appears Mr Reeve is also still chair of the LEP’s sub-committee on investment and sub-committee on agri-tech – although the LEP website remains silent on this.

As such the boss of the local funding body awarded £150 million of taxpayer funds appears to be in charge at three different levels – Board, Executive and Sub-committee levels.

This unprecedented concentration of power in someone unelected by the public is despite Mr Reeve failing to explain why his own business annual accounts for his building firm Chalcroft, had financial irregularities in the same year he became boss of the LEP. Mr Reeve personally signed the accounts which record these financial irregularities.

The decision to extend Mr Reeve’s power was proposed by John Bridge – who coincidentally will also decide on Mr Reeve’s salary as the new Executive Chairman. Mr Bridge chairs the remuneration committee which will decide how much public money to give Mr Reeve.

Any constituent who wants more information on these arrangements should contact John Bridge direct at j.bridge@cambscci.co.uk”

http://stevebarclay.net/controversial-lep-chairman-combines-top-jobs-for-himself-at-board-executive-and-sub-committee-levels/

Update: he resigned the post in November 2017!