Push for greater town hall transparency on trade union interests

Published on Friday, 20 September 2013 12:05
Written by Sinead Fynes Black

New guidance published requiring councillors to register trade union membership.

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis announced today (20 September 2013) new rules to increase town hall transparency by producing guidance requiring councillors to register trade union affiliations and dealings. This is intended to avoid conflicts of interest when councils consider issues directly affecting trade unions, such as reviews of taxpayer-funded subsidies given to trade unions.

Government guidance on openness and transparency of a councillor's personal interests has been revised to include specifically registering union memberships. In addition a council's own code of conduct, guided by the 7 principles of public life, should now specify a requirement to register personal trade union interests.

Within 28 days of taking office councillors must register certain financial as well as non-financial interests required by their council's code of conduct, which should include any trade union membership.

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said:

"For too long residents have been kept in the dark about what union affiliations their councillors hold. All councillors should disclose all their personal and financial interests on a public register, including registering union interests. Given the public debate about 'facility time' and 'pilgrims' in local government, it's vital that conflicts of interest are avoided. These transparency reforms will give local people the confidence that their councillors are putting residents' interests before their own."

The new guidance builds on existing transparency measures introduced as part of the Localism Act and is part of the new arrangements for local authority standards that replaced the bureaucratic and controversial Standards Board regime, abolished in 2012, which ministers believe had become a vehicle for malicious, petty and politically motivated complaints.

The Standards Board regime also raised concerns that it discouraged councillors from whistleblowing or criticising waste and inefficiency in local government, as it opened them up to complaints by local authority officers.

Source: DCLG

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