As we've said before to those that have signed up for our notifications....
It's Eric Pickles .......
And another one bites the dust.
This time its the 'Standards Board' that's going.
This was the huge waste of money that was supposed to drive up standards in local councils. But in fact, all it did was allow
councillors - and even worse - officers - to indulge in the civic equivalent of playground hair-pulling.
The national Standards Board became so overwhelmed with petty complaints, that its waiting list to hear cases was 18 months long after just two years of operation.
So then they implemented a requirement for every Council in the land to have its own 'Standards
Committee' and announced the national board would only deal with the most serious cases.
Fylde's spending on local hearings rocketed. (As did every other council in the country).
Additional Boards of independent persons and peers were created to hear
and determine complaints. Solicitors and advocates were engaged, casework was farmed out to private solicitors and investigators. As we've said before, mushrooming overheads and a lack of cost control is the root cause of Fylde's woes.
But now, in a moment of sanity that is rare in Government circles, the Communities Minister Andrew Stunell has just announced the abolition of the Standards Board and, along with that, he promises prosecution for councillors who indulge in serious misconduct. There will
(quite properly) be a new criminal offence dealt with by the courts, not by committees.
In a parallel move, the Ombudsman is to be given more teeth to deal with complaints made by the public. They will be able to legally compel councils to implement the Ombudsman's findings.
We've already had contact from several delighted councillors about the abolition of the Standards Board.
One said when they read the Government Press Release they thought they were reading a counterbalance article because it's exactly what we have been saying for years.
Another said "I feel like a new councillor now that common sense has been reintroduced. God save Saint Eric Pickles."
You can click here to read the full Statement by St Eric's underling Minister Andrew Stunell.
There are three implications for Fylde that flow from the decision. The first is that, in future it will no longer be an 'offence' for councillors to speak their mind on a topic before hearing their officer's report on
So Councillors who are elected on a campaigning platform - as Saint Barbara Pagett was for Ashton Gardens, will be free to speak the views of the electorate they represent.
It also means an end to threats of being reported for having "pre-determined" opinions.
As St Eric himself said "Councillors who have been prevented from speaking on the very issues they had been elected on, such as planning matters, will now have the freedom to express their views."
The second implication is that no longer will elected representatives be hauled over the coals for criticising an officer who they believe is failing in their duties.
Councillors will be free - within the law - to speak their minds without 'Big
Brother' breathing down their necks and threatening to report them to the Standards Committee.
This means for example that our report ";Paul Hayhurst's Tribunal" will become a piece of civic
history. It will become what we think is a suitable epitaph for the stupidity of the Standards Board system.
The third implication is that Fylde's own burgeoning internal Standards Committee System will (or at least should) be abolished as well.
We estimate that means a saving of between £50k and £100k a year on Fylde's budget.
Maybe it will fund the Tourist
Information Centre service that the Cabinet is about to be recommended to abolish.
That would be good.
We hope FBC will learn from St Eric, and they will opt to scrap the crap, not the services.
Dated: 1 October 2010