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Thursday, 19 January 2012

You need standards to be on Ealing Council's Standards Committee!

Tonight I attended the Council's standards meeting. The meeting's remit is not to discuss the standard of Ealing Council! It is to create, amend and enforce the rules that try to ensure that Councillors do not break the rules.

This could be not declaring a gift from a planning company who have submitted a planning application or lying about facts in a Council meeting etc. Many of the complaints raised are from political parties claiming a Councillor from another party has broken the rules. Rarely are any of the complaints upheld.

Given that a new law is coming into force (the Localism Act) it means that a Councillor found breaking certain rules can be reported to the police and suffer punishment. However the real Councillor crimes are ones where they offend residents in a meeting or other more soft offences. My suggestion that these are best solved by being warned or take part in some type of training scheme was agreed. The Council is finalising the plans but a punishment of a censure from the Council is likely to be the worst offence. This censure would probably end a politician's career.

We then discussed the details of what are the general principles of being a Councillor. It took about 30 minutes to agree that councillors should be selfless, have integrity, objectivity, be accountable, open, honest and be leaders. But that doesn't get to the discussion of how we define what honesty is.....................

In the same discussion the sad fact that the new law will not allow any non-councillor to be on the standard's committee (which is used to try to get non-party political discussion of issues) who have served Ealing's committee in the last 5 years. Bizarre.

The Localism Act has some useful clauses and functions but it also will make some things worse for residents.

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