‘Standards’ reform deferred


As mentioned in my last blog a significant proportion of City residents signed a petition last year declaring that they had no confidence in the City Corporation’s “standards” regime. One of their demands was for reform of “standards” proceedings. A motion was put to the Court of Common Council at its virtual meeting on Thursday (18 June) to give effect to those wishes. Sadly the motion was amended out of existence, mostly by members of the Court who are not City residents and are elected by business votes in the City’s unique electoral system. 

Residents watching the meeting on YouTube will have seen how the “establishment” within the Court ambushed the motion with an amendment to defer the commencement of reform.

Although the proposer of the amendment said that:

“it is widely recognised that there are clear concerns about our standards regime, and some feel that there has been rough justice, or indeed no justice”, 

and the seconder said that:

“our current self-governing process has failed to gain the confidence of this Honourable Court, or indeed some of our City residents”,

they gained enough support to defer taking any action. 

Residents might be puzzled why this Standards Motion, which had been signed by 59 members of the Court (nearly half of the total of 125), with a number more having committed to vote in favour of it, could be defeated by 74 votes to 37. It couldn’t have been because the members who changed sides had been persuaded by anything said in the debate, because nothing new was said – all the arguments had already been repeatedly set out in emails distributed to all members during the previous month. The outcome of the vote seems to be yet another example of many members feeling obliged to following the lead of the “establishment” – hardly a healthy situation in a public authority whose members are supposed to be elected to represent voters’ interests.

The voting record of your Cripplegate members was as follows. Alderman David Graves did not sign the motion and voted against it (that is he voted for the spoiler amendment). All eight councillors signed the motion, but only six voted in favour of it. Stephen Quilter didn’t attend the virtual meeting, and Vivienne Littlechild joined David Graves and voted for the spoiler amendment.

We now await the publication in September of a report by Lord Lisvane who has been commissioned by the City to make recommendations on its corporate governance. It is more than likely that he will make some recommendations on the City’s “standards” regime. Whether the Court will do anything about it is another matter; the action of two thirds of its members last Thursday indicates that they feel no urgency about putting right something that nearly all of them accept is wrong.   

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