Friday, 13 March 2009

Lessons NOT Learnt after Nottingham City Homes Debacle

Quite rightly, NCC is still ruminating over the potential fall-out and lessons to be learnt following the Audit Commission's report on the housing allocations scam. The Standards Committee met on 4 March 2009 and discussed some of the recommendations relating to Councillor behaviour.

You may remember in one of my previous discussions on this I said

"In an ideal world where everybody is above board, when a Councillor makes representations on behalf of a constituent who is also a close family member or friend, in my experience at other authorities they would declare this interest."

It seems that the Audit Commission said something similar on page 6 of its report (I hadn't read that bit before making my comment honest) and said that NCC should

"Ensure there are mechanisms in place that require councillors to register any potential conflicts of interest when seeking to advcate on behalf of local constituents."

I've got to say that, when I made my original remark I presumed that there would be such a peocedure but, like so many, it was routinely ignored. It didn't really occur to me that THERE WOULD BE NO FRICKIN PROCEDURE WHATSOEVER.

Happily, the Standards Committee has rejected this most basic tenet of accountability on the grounds that it may

"...cause confusion and conflict between it and the Members Code of Conduct in the minds of councillors."

and decided that a bit more guidance would be sufficient instead. This guidance would be on

"...factors which councillors need to consider when acting in housing allocations, with illustrative examples."

So the guidance will only talk about housing allocations, like thats the only possible area where conflict of interest may occur. What about planning for example?

There's nothing in the minutes suggesting where any conflict may actually occur and the idea that conflict of interest measures should be rejected because councillors won't be able to understand them just means that we need some new and cleverer councillors.

So much for the 'lessons will be learnt' rhetoric.

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