Saturday, May 28, 2005

Liberal Democrat talks sense shocker

Amazingly, there is something upon which John H, Bob Piper, Unity and the Hack are agreed - the Standards Board for England. This sort of alignment happens only rarely and some commentators may regard it as a portent of doom....

This exists to examine the conduct of elected councillors and bring them to account for their behaviour - it can even suspend them from office, which would fatally wound most political careers. Fair enough, if you want to deal with a councillor taking bribes or stepping way out of line, but threats of complaints seem to be being used by a number of officers and authorities as a way of stifling debate and attacking the democratic rights of elected members.

John cited the the Liverpool case where the spat between the Chief Exec and the Liberal Democrat leader has escalated into open warfare amid claims that the (non-elected) Chief Exec told the (elected) leader to resign (claims denied by the Chief Exec in question).

If this is true, then the Chief Executive may have acted improperly - if he believes that there is an issue over conduct that should be raised with the standards board, then he has a public duty to do so, not to act as judge, jury and executioner and ask a democratically elected member to 'do the decent thing'.

Recently, Paul Dimoldenburg from Westminster was hauled before the board for highlighting the way the council was dragging its feet over recovering the millions owed by the disgraced gerrymanderer Shirley Porter. The interesting thing was that it was found that he had breached the code of conduct, but had decided to impose no penalty because that breach was in the public interest. Shouldn't that be a defence in itself? Surely the correct result would have been to have found him to be acting within the code of conduct as the public interest should be supreme. Paul's an experienced councillor with the backing of his local party, but things might have been different for a more junior member.

For once, I'm with John H on this issue. Deal with corruption, by all means, but ask the question whether some of the issues raised with the standards board aren't better dealt with through the ballot box.


john said...

Is your advice that I should sue?


PoliticalHack said...

Like you would take any advice I might offer...

Shall we just say that I believe the decision of the adjudication panel in YOUR case was a little generous.