Damaging democracy through codes of conduct

By Colin Copus | 09 March 2021

Reactions to the infamous ‘Handforth Parish Council’ video, point to an avalanche of councillors behaving badly and the emergence of a new heroine for those seeking tougher sanctions against councillors. The unarticulated but ultimate aim of such calls is power to permanently expel, rather than just suspend councillors.

Prompted by the 2019 Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report into local government, the Local Government Association produced a new draft code for consultation. The debate created has been as predictable as it has been chilling. Too much focus is placed on punishment, sanctions and power to suspend, rather than how codes can create the right behavioural climate, set of values and an environment supporting high standards. Compliance has beaten values and ‘off with his head’ is the response rather than let’s understand why this has happened – the latter often favoured for dealing with convicted criminals rather than elected officials.

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