A model code of conduct for councillors put forward by the Local Government Association (LGA) lacks teeth, according to bodies representing officers.
While the code includes an ‘escalating’ range of sanctions, it falls short of the six-month suspension without allowances recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
In its response to the LGA’s consultation, chief executives’ organisation Solace wrote: ‘While we welcome the code we recognise that without appropriate sanctions the code is worthless and the current sanctions are almost non-existent.’
Solace pressed the LGA to lobby the Government to pass the legislation needed to introduce tougher sanctions, including barring from offices and withdrawal of facilities.
A response to the consultation from Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) added: ‘Sanctions are the single most important issue for LLG to give effect to the code of conduct. The existing sanctions and those proposed under the draft code fall below the expectations of complainants.’
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said: ‘More robust sanctions go hand in hand with an improved code of conduct.’
LLG and Solace also called for further protection for statutory officers against all disciplinary action rather than just dismissal.
The responses also generally sought more clarity on what constitutes acceptable behaviour.
CIPFA pointed out: ‘We do not all share the same moral compass and our interpretation may differ from others.’
The Centre for Public Scrutiny urged caution on the code’s stipulation on ‘civility,’ arguing it could be ‘misused by those seeking to police the tone of their political opponents’ and failed to address ‘microaggressions’ targeting minority groups.
It said the code could not be a panacea, adding: ‘The absence of a national scheme for standards and conduct limits the ability of councils and councillors to be able to seek support from external sources.’
There were also calls for social media to be included explicitly within the code.