14 August 2020Publish date: 14/08/2020
Engagement with external stakeholders is a key theme of my presidency. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do at LLG. If we share our voice and listen to the views of others, trusting and working openly with those in the sector, seeking to find consensus and shared approaches, the proposals we form translate easily into successful outcomes.
Within local authorities, the lawyers work alongside the s151 officers and the finance team, the Chief Executives and the leadership team, and the democratic services officers. They talk to Parish and Town Council Clerks. They interact with councillors across the tiers.
So, at LLG it is imperative that we debate positions with SOLACE and CiPFA, ADSO, SLCC, the LGA and NALC to see things from every perspective. It turns out that what works best for the lawyer also benefits the democratic services officer – guidance for virtual meetings was an ideal example of this. What worries the lawyer also worries the s151 officer – they are just as concerned at Monitoring officers slipping down the management tiers in some local authorities as we are, not least because a similar problem is being seen with s151 officers.
For the development of our position on the draft Code of Conduct, we have spoken at length to SLCC and ADSO about the impact on local council meetings. Will the code be adopted at parish and town council level if it remains voluntary? Could training be mandatory? Will councillors be asked to sign the code? It goes without saying that there remains concern around the management of bullying and harassment at local council level, and there are questions being asked as to whether the Code goes far enough in that respect. Consequently, a priority for me as President is to push for wide adoption of the code to ensure consistency across all tiers. Otherwise there seems to be little point. Why have a model code that just sits in a drawer? Why continue with a system where dual or triple hatted councillors have different rules for different meetings? Why continue with a system where some councillors aren't trained, or may not even have read the code that binds them?
We debated governance issues with CiPFA and SOLACE, such as statutory protection for statutory officers – both CiPFA and SOLACE support cast iron protection. But most importantly, for every stakeholder, the issue is all about sanctions. It is a red flag for us all. We can hope for compliance, we can cross our fingers and hope for improved behaviour, but without sanctions, it's just a wish list.
As your President I will do all I can to secure consistency and adoption of the new Code, and proper sanctions.