Tyler welcomes end to ‘ludicrously trivial’ investigations

Leading Councillor and Officers use the soon-to-be-scrapped Standards Board for England as a way of ‘tying up’ whistleblowers in ‘ludicrously trivial investigations’, Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Tyler said yesterday.

Speaking in the House of Lords, he told Peers, “I have seen that happen time and again with large and small authorities – when apparently disreputable actions of a few leading members or officers of a council have been exposed by a whistleblower, but their reaction has been to seek to silence him or her.

“Instead of welcoming transparency and remedial action, there have been persistent attempts to silence such dissent by claiming that their activities brought the council into disrepute. If a council, in whatever way, is disreputable, it deserves to be given that description.  It is not the council that is being brought into disrepute by the dissident member but the behaviour of the council itself in whatever way.”

Lord Tyler made particular reference to a long-running controversy in Cotswold District Council, which he said had been fully reported in the “Rotten Boroughs” columns of Private Eye.

The Liberal Democrat/Conservative Coalition Government has pledged to abolish the Standards Board for England, returning the function of upholding high standards of conduct to local authorities themselves.

Responding to Lord Tyler’s speech, the Minister in charge, Lord Taylor said, “Whatever the original intentions behind the establishment of the [Standards] regime, it has become a heavy-handed and costly vehicle for dealing with complaints, which can, in some cases, be petty, malicious, vexatious or politically motivated.”

Commenting afterwards, Lord Tyler added:

“The Government has a difficult balance to strike.

“We are all agreed that the present Standards Board regime is cumbersome at best and downright perverse at worst.  It could be used by disreputable councillors and councils to deter whistleblowers as well as to ostracise effective, outspoken councillors.

“All too often attempts by elected Members to shine a light on neglectful or malfeasant practices were branded by the Board as ‘bringing the Council into disrepute.’

“Any new system must do away with such nonsenses, while ensuring that high standards of conduct are maintained in local government.  To do this, they will need to ensure that the standards regimes within Councils themselves stand up to scrutiny and, crucially, that they are not influenced by party politics.”

ENDS

The full text of Lord Tyler’s speech is available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110914-0002.htm#110914101001480

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