Not enough interest in interests? Two parish councillors charged
At LRALC we often speak to councillors who are unsure about what formal interests are, and what they mean for the councillor concerned. Indeed, one of the very first news items on this website in 2013 related to the issue. See here.
We have today become aware of two parish councillors (not in our area) who have been charged with participating in discussions and voting in parish council meetings while having a disclosable pecuniary interest, in contravention of section 31(4) of the Localism Act 2011, and other offences. Even if not eventually convicted, these councillors now face charges which are a matter of public record. See here. These are the first parish level councillors to be charged with such offences as far as we are aware.
The bottom line is that if councillors aren't supported in understanding their council's code of conduct and the law around interests they could find themselves with an upheld complaint against them, or even a criminal charge/conviction. Things as innocuous as voting on authorisation of payments can see councillors committing a criminal offence, and anecdotal evidence tells us that offences under the Localism Act are being committed regularly by parish councillors simply because the regime has never been properly and fully explained to them.
Though responsibility ultimately rests with individual councillors, and ignorance would not be a defence under the law, we have seen councils criticised in the past for not offering training to councillors on the code of conduct, leaving them very vulnerable to inadvertent breaches of the code and/or the law.
There are a multitude of resources for councillors available through LRALC on this issue, including our popular code of conduct training course, which councillors can attend individually or LRALC can deliver in-house for individual councils. See here for details.
Posted: Wed, 06 Sep 2023 12:53 by Jake Atkinson