Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Nolan Principles and the Code of Conduct

Every single councillor in the county, together with MPs and anyone else in public life is expected to uphold the Nolan Principles.  These principles are an integral part of the Code of Conduct that all Councillors on FTC (and CWaC) have signed up to.  In Frodsham we have added 'Respect for others' to the 7 Nolan principles.

  1. Whenever you are acting as a member of this authority you must act in accordance with the following obligations:
  2. 1 You must act solely in the public interest and must never use or attempt to use your position improperly to confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person or act to gain financial or other material benefits for yourself, your family, friends or close associates.
    2 You must not place yourself under a financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties.
    You should exercise independent judgement. Although you may take account of the views of others (including a political group), you should reach your own conclusions on the issues before you and act in accordance with those conclusions.
    3 When carrying out your public duties you must make all choices, such as making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits, on merit.
    You should remain objective, listen to the interests of all parties appropriately and impartially and take all relevant information, including advice from the authority’s officers, into consideration.
    4 You are accountable to the public for your decisions and you must co-operate fully with whatever scrutiny is appropriate to your office, including by local residents.
    5 (a) You must be as open and transparent as possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority. You should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions. You must not prevent anyone getting information that they are entitled to by law. 
    (b) Where the law or the wider public interest requires it, you must not disclose confidential information or information to which public access is restricted.
    6 (a) You must declare any private interests, both pecuniary and non-pecuniary, that relate to your public duties and must take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest, including registering and declaring interests as set out below.
    (b) You must only use or authorise the use of the authority’s resources in accordance with the authority’s requirements. You must, when using or authorising the use by others of such resources, ensure that they are used for proper purposes only. Resources must not be used improperly for political purposes (including party political purposes) and you must have regard to any applicable Local Authority Code of Publicity made under the Local Government Act 1986.
    Respect for others
    7 (a) You must treat others with respect. You should engage with colleagues and staff in a manner that underpins mutual respect, essential to good local government.
    (b) You must not do anything which may cause your authority to breach any equality laws.
    (c) You must not compromise or attempt to compromise the impartiality of anyone who works for, or on behalf of, the authority.
    (d) You must not bully any person, including other councillors, officers of the authority or members of the public.
    8 You must promote and support high standards of conduct when serving as member or co-opted member of the authority, by leadership and example, championing the interests of the community.
    You should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust that the public is entitled to place in you. 

So what do these principles mean in practice...

Well at the risk of stating the obvious:

No Councillor should claim he can 'get you planning permission' - it isn't in any councillor's gift - let alone a Town Councillor.  FTC has limited influence over planning decisions which are taken by CWaC - mostly by CWaC officers;

No Councillor should claim he can get you a 'council house' or a 'housing association house.'  Again it isn't in his gift.  FTC has very limited influence over these things.  Housing decisions are taken independently either by the housing association or by CWaC officers;

No FTC Councillor can claim that he can sort out the transfer of assets such as playing fields, particularly assets that belong to someone else or to another council;

No Councillor should seek to bully or intimidate anyone, including FTC's own staff;

All councillors should engage with their colleagues with mutual respect - and of course this goes for 'outbursts' at public meetings...

Of course some of these examples may also amount to something more serious such as fraud or misconduct in public office...