Thursday, 10 December 2015

Justice at last seen to be done: the Standards Committee in Barnet


My speech to Council - 9 December 2015
About 18 months ago, the Council was in chaos, and the problem was political proportionality. 
Clair Lloyd-Jones' damning report, criticized both the Council and its legal advisers on their legal provision.  Committees had to shut down until proportionality was correctly calculated.

But one Committee that should not have been politically proportional is what was then known as the Leaders' Panel which is to emerge again as the Standards Committee to deal with disciplinary matters of elected members.

The recommendation brought  before the Constitution, Ethics and Probity Committee on 16 November was that there should be two members from each of the two main political parties with the chair having the casting vote. It was claimed to be politically equal but it was in fact still balanced in favour of the ruling party.

The argument put forward in support of this recommendation was that in practice there was generally concensus among members, and also that members could be relied on to use their integrity.

However, it seemed that the objections that had been applied to the former Leaders' Panel could still be applied, and given the opportunity to rewrite the rules, why not get it as it should be - with no party having an advantage?

Justice has to be seen to be done, so even if a majority of cases are purportedly decided by concensus, the very make-up of the Committee, on paper, must be seen to be fair. 

The amendment on the table tonight that in the event of a tied vote the case would be unproven and therefore dismissesd seems a fair and good one.  And if it is indeed the case that proceedings usually end in consensus then the use of this procedure would rarely come into play.

The process of the Committee was a positive one.   The establishment of an independent chair and how this could best be achieved was contributed to by both sides working together to achieve a solution and I think the Constitution and the nature of the new Standards Committee will be better for it.

I support the recommendation and the amendment

NB Both the recommendation and the amendment were agreed.