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Watchdog will ensure high standards
A NEW council watchdog has been appointed to ensure that all Cheshire East councillors uphold the highest ethical standards.
Cheshire East Council has recruited four borough residents – Peter Bryant, Robert Fousert, Sheila Roberts and Roger Pomlett – as ‘independent persons’ to work with the authority’s new ad-hoc standards committee.
This body is a sub-committee of the council’s Audit and Governance Committee and will meet only as required.
The Localism Act 2011 places a duty on councils to promote and maintain high standards of conduct for elected and co-opted members.
This includes the requirement to adopt a new code of conduct for members – which came into effect on July 19.
The act requires the council to adopt arrangements for dealing with complaints of breaches of the code of conduct by councillors or co-opted members of Cheshire East Council and the town and parish councils in its area.
This has to include provision for the appointment of at least one ‘independent person’ who would be consulted on complaints.
To ensure independence, there were restrictions as to who can apply for these posts – for example applicants must not be politically active or have any relationship with councillors, the council or any of its employees. Clr Les Gilbert, cabinet member in charge of corporate policy, said: “The way our members conduct themselves is critically important and of interest to many people in Cheshire East.
“That is why we need the process of upholding and enforcing the highest standards to be transparent, robust and involve local people who are independent of the council.
“The work of this sub-committee is very important – and I look forward to working with its members to ensure we continue to uphold the high standards of our elected representatives across Cheshire East.
“This issue is a negligible problem within Cheshire East. From April 2011 to March 2012 only two complaints were received against our members, and neither resulted in any action being taken. In the same period, eight complaints were received against town and parish council members, of which five were dismissed and three are ongoing.”
Independent persons on the ad-hoc standards committee will serve for four years.