The LGA is consulting on a revised model member code aimed at supporting councillors in the face of new challenges.
The role of councillor in all tiers of local government is a vital part of our country’s system of democracy.
In voting for a local councillor, the public is imbuing that person and position with their trust. As such, it is important that, as councillors, we can be held accountable, and that we all adopt the behaviours and responsibilities associated with the role.
The conduct of an individual councillor affects the reputation of all councillors. We want the role of councillor to be one to which people aspire and in which they want to participate. We want to continue to attract individuals from a range of backgrounds and circumstances, who understand the responsibility they take on and are motivated to make a positive difference to their local communities.
As councillors, we represent local residents, and work to develop better services and deliver local change. The public has high expectations of us, and entrusts us to represent everyone in our ward, town, city and parish, taking decisions fairly, openly, transparently and with civility.
In taking the decision to look again at the LGA’s model member code of conduct, we quickly agreed that the code should be about councillors feeling pride in their role and what they have achieved in being elected.
It should be about helping councillors understand and undertake their role, and, in turn, helping their residents understand what they can expect from their councillors. Importantly, it should also set out how councillors can expect to be treated.
More and more communication is taking place online and via social media, particularly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, so we want the code to help councillors navigate tricky modern-day questions, such as how best to use online and social media. We want it to empower them to stop – and, in the most serious cases, report to the police – online conversations that may become abusive or threatening.
The LGA and Welsh LGA published a ‘Councillors guide to handling intimidation’ last year. If you want to know more about this issue, see www.local.gov.uk/councillors-guide-handling-intimidation.
As local politics has evolved over the past decade, it has become apparent that demonstrating integrity and high standards has grown from transparency of decision-making and avoiding conflicts of interest, to include good and respectful debate, interaction and behaviours. These are key elements of our programme on civility in public life (see www.local.gov.uk/civility-public-life).
We also see the revision of the LGA’s model code of conduct as part of our work on encouraging more people to put themselves forward to become councillors through our ‘Be a Councillor’ campaign (see the link to this at the web address above).
The code, of course, still needs to be simple, easy to understand and straightforward, and follow a common-sense approach. Members have individual and collective responsibility to maintain these standards, support expected behaviour, and challenge behaviour that falls below expectations. This code, therefore, has been designed to protect our democratic role, encourage good conduct, and safeguard the public’s trust in local government.
All councils are required to have a local member code of conduct. This model code has been developed in consultation with the sector and is offered as a template for councils to adopt in whole or with local amendments.