Backing for conduct code

Dave Stubbs Chief Executive Officer at Hartlepool Borough Council. Picture by FRANK REID
Dave Stubbs Chief Executive Officer at Hartlepool Borough Council. Picture by FRANK REID

REVISIONS to a council’s code of conduct have been approved by councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council has agreed the revamped code to ensure town councillors adhere to seven principles around accountability, objectivity and integrity.

Members from all political parties voted to approve the revised code of conduct in order to comply with the Localism Act 2011 as part of the new governance arrangements.

The seven main principles are:

l Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest;

l Integrity – Members must avoid placing themselves “under any obligation” to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work.

Members should also not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends and must declare and resolve any interests and relationships;

l Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions “impartially, fairly and on merit”.

l Accountability – Members are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions;

l Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an “open and transparent manner”;

l Honest – Members should be truthful;

l Leadership – They should “actively promote and robustly support” the principles and challenge poor behaviour.

Council chief executive Dave Stubbs presented the report at Thursday night’s full council meeting, which read: “All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources.”

The revised code of conduct was recommended by the council’s standards committee following a recent meeting.

The local authority consulted with the Department for Communities and Local Government, which wanted reference within council’s code of conduct to Section 34 of the Localism Act.

That states a “person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, that person fails to comply with an obligation imposed on them in respect of the disclosure of pecuniary interests on taking office and must disclose that interest (other than in the case of certain sensitive interests, to which a different procedure applies) or participate in any discussion or votes or takes any steps in contravention of the above”.

Members would therefore commit an offence if they knowingly provided information that is false or misleading and if found guilty could be fined up to £5,000 and disqualified from becoming a member of an 
authority for up to five years.