A councillor has been granted permission to bring judicial review proceedings challenging the compatibility of the new local government standards regime with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Justice Collins, at an oral permission hearing in the Administrative Court, concluded that it was arguable that a decision by a local standards committee that a councillor had breached the Code of Conduct by disclosing confidential information was:
- incompatible with rights under Article 10 ECHR to freedom of expression; and
- incompatible with Article 6, because the standards committee that determined the councillor’s civil rights and obligations was not independent and impartial. According to the claimant's legal team, this is because under the new local government standards regime introduced by the Localism Act 2011, the committee was not politically neutral and had a majority of members from the council’s ruling group.
The solicitors for the claimant councillor, Frances Randle and Richard Pitkethly of law firm Steel & Shamash, have instructed Joanne Clement of 11KBW.
News of the challenge comes after both the Committee for Standards in Public Life and Lawyers in Local Government expressed concern at the operation of the standards regime since it was revised through the Localism Act 2011.
The committtee expressed concern in particular about:
- The operation of the standards regime in local authorities where leadership was inadequate;
- The lack of meaningful sanctions;
- The weakness of the ‘independent person’ arrangements; and
- The lack of time that was available for transition to the new system.