New council code flagged

The decentralisation and localism bill will seek to clarify the predisposition law surrounding councillors speaking on local planning issues, it has been revealed.

The model code of conduct, enforced by Standards for England, bars elected members from taking part in decisions where they have previously campaigned or expressed a view.

However, with the scrapping of the board, communities secretary Eric Pickles has now suggested introducing a deterrent of criminal sanctions. Failing to register or disclose a personal interest impacting on council business could result in a conviction, fine or ban on serving as a councillor.

"This unnecessary bureaucracy restricting freedom of speech is being replaced with real openness and transparency," declared Pickles.

Public relations consultancy Financial Dynamics' vice-president Phil Kennedy said: "This ought to make it easier for developers to explain their proposals to planning committee members and get feedback.

"That takes some unpredictability out of the planning process."

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