Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cornwall Council asks for recall system for councillors who breach code of conduct

Cornwall Council today voted in favour of calling on the government to introduce a system of recall  for councillors found to have seriously breached the code of conduct.

The punishments available to the council in cases where a serious breach has occurred are relatively flimsy. In the past we could suspend a councillor or even refer them up to London to the Standards Board who could disqualify them for up to 5 years. Now the system has changed and the most that can be imposed is a censure and a suggestion that they apologise and undergo training.

Today councillors backed a call for the previous sanctions to be made available once again. But they also backed a proposal by my Launceston colleague Jade Farrington for a system of recall.

The details of a recall system would have to be determined. But typically they work like this. In a situation where the independent standards regime of the council found there had been a serious breach of the code of conduct, electors in the division of the offending councillor would have the right to demand a recall election. There would have to be a threshold for such a petition - say at least 10% of the electorate signing a petition within 2 months of the finding of misconduct. If a valid petition were presented then a new election would be held at which the offending councillor could be a candidate. It would then be up to local voters to decide whether they felt that the offence was grave enough that they wanted to remove the councillor from office.

Introducing recall would require a change in the law - as would restoring the previous sanctions. Cornwall Council today voted to ask the government to consider both.

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