LLG President Delivers Rallying Speech at Governance Conference

Publish date: 20/10/2019

Read the President's speech to the LLG Governance Conference 2019

I would like to thank our marvellous Corporate Partners for their continued support for LLG for which we remain grateful, and also to all the exhibiting firms, sponsors and speakers for making the Governance Conference once again a great occasion.

Every year LLG champions the need for lawyers, governance officers and monitoring officers to come together share good practice, knowledge, networking opportunities and support. I know that I find the shared learning from both the programme and my conversations with colleagues invaluable and I see a number of returning faces who I'm sure feel the same. To those of you here for the first time – I hope you do too.

It is more important than ever that we come together, share our experiences, grow in knowledge and look to each other for support, determination and unity. Governance sits at the heart of delivery for our organisations and we play a key role in that. Our support for each other and networks through LLG strengthen our ability to perform that role and therefore strengthen our organisations.

Respect for impartiality, respect for the rule of law and respect for each other are essential to ensure open Governance throughout the public sector

We continue to see examples of poor behaviour. The blurring of the lines between challenging a view that one disagrees with and simply attacking a person for their view is one that is becoming increasingly prevalent. Such attacks undermine and diminish the role of the monitoring officer and lawyer in local government. Whilst mostly in the minority, even one local incident ripples through the profession and undermines the very core of open, ethical and accountable governance. We hear frequent examples of inflammatory, bullish language and behaviours. In Birmingham this year the MO was targeted in such a way that saw our professional role diminished, undervalued, misunderstood and published in the press. Despite the public apology following events, the consequential impact, the subtle effect upon the consciousness of our colleagues, members and clients remains an immeasurable cause for concern. Our shared experience, collective support and learning through events such as these have bolstered me when I have been required to challenge and I hope will provide similar reassurance and support to all who attend

This wave of anti-sentiment towards the impartiality of those appointed to uphold standards, conduct, probity and ethical governance independently including the outpouring against the Judiciary following the Supreme Court ruling means we find ourselves part of a broader trend of professionals being under attack for performing the role that has been asked of them by Parliament.

Never before has the core of our profession, our ethical impartiality and guardianship of the rule of law been under such attack. An independent judiciary and the rule of law is a bedrock for our democracy. Our collective voice, raised together, demanding that the independence of our profession is protected is essential. It is essential for Monitoring Officers in those positions to know that the job is not as lonely as it may sometimes feel. It is essential for the delivery of public services that good governance is safeguarded. This requires a collective effort to push back against such attacks. LLG will perform that role as the voice of the profession. In defending the impartiality required of us we expect others partners such as the Law Society will speak up in this cause and defend members from unjustified attack. We must educate, inform and stand firm. That is what LLG is for and what this conference is about. But we cannot do this alone

The Golden Triangle is a key campaign of LLG and centres upon raising the profile of MO's in local government and ensuring effective relationships with the Head of Paid Service and section 151 officer This triumvirate work together ensure good governance for our organisations.

Restructuring has impacted upon the effectiveness of the golden triangle, with monitoring officers often not working at the top tier of management and excluded from the early stages of project planning and decision making when they could add value. LLG aim to raise the profile and status of monitoring officers, promote the importance of being at the top tier, and highlight problems such as access to senior officers and poor decision making that can result from not having the right advice at the right time.

We are also promoting best practice in governance structures and decision making to strengthen the golden triangle. We are also working with both the Ministry and the Local Government Association in relation to the proposed code of conduct. I would be very interested to hear your views on the code, so please get in contact and share them with LLG.

Phillip Horsfield

LLG President