Standards for England ceased its regulatory function on 31 January 2012, and is now winding down its offices and archiving its guidance. So how should councils nowdeal with standards investigations that are in the pipeline, prior to the introduction of the new regime in July?
A new month and a new approach to Standards in Local Government. Last night saw Standards for England (SfE) close their doors, or at least their active website, and they are now focusing their resources on the closedown of the organisation on 31 March.
The commencement of provisions in Chapter 7 of Part
1of the Localism Act 2011 means that SfE's regulatory
function has now ceased and they no longer have
powers to accept new referrals from local standards committees or
to conduct investigations into complaints against members.
Perhaps equally importantly for local authorities struggling to
deal with conduct issues for a few months yet, SfE will no
longer have a role in providing guidance on the existing standards
The existing guidance that was available on their website can still be accessed for the moment, but SFE is in the process of archiving it and it won't be kept up to date. The changes in the Standards regime brought in through the Localism Act will mean that any existing information has to be treated with caution once the regime changes completely, but in the meantime it will remain useful to local authorities who will be dealing with Standards cases until 1 July 2012, and a lot of the guidance may also be of use in considering matters to be taken into account in setting up new processes, even though these will be different.
Bevan Brittan have kept a library of most of the
guidance and reports that SfE have produced and will be
pleased to make this available to local authorities, should this be
of assistance. If you would like help in accessing
any SfE guidance, please contact Claire Booth.
It is anticipated that the uncompleted cases which local authorities have sent to Standard for England will be sent back for the authority to deal with as they think fit. Given that it tended to be the more difficult and serious cases that were passed up from Local Hearings, it is not clear how authorities will deal with these, as in many cases they may be unwilling to see them abandoned, especially after going through the necessary process to have them sent up in the first place .
Bevan Brittan have a vast amount of experience in advising local authorities on Standards matters, whether through advice to Monitoring Officers on particular aspects of a matter or by acting as investigating officers. If you are facing problems through the effective closure of Standards for England from the end of January, we would be very pleased to assist .