City Corporation streamlines its dispensations policy

The City of London Corporation are really taking advantage of the Guildhall Yard this summer

The City of London Corporation’s standards committee has simplified its policy on allowing councillors to speak and vote on residential issues in which they have a financial interest.

The Localism Act 2011 requires a councillor with a financial interest in a matter not to speak and vote on that matter without being granted permission to do so – known as a dispensation.

The changes will make the process of granting dispensations quicker, easier, and more efficient, giving elected councillors the maximum opportunity to represent their constituents effectively under the law.

In March, following extensive consultation, the City Corporation adopted a new policy giving councillors with a financial conflict of interest individual dispensations to speak and vote where it is appropriate under the Act.

Following a six month review of the policy, the City Corporation’s standards committee has acted to further simplify the rules, speed up the decision making process and ensure elected members have the optimum opportunity to represent their constituents.

The changes include new, more efficient measures put in place to ensure dispensations to speak and vote are granted more quickly.

This includes the introduction of regular meetings to consider dispensations; new enhanced support and guidance for councillors when deciding if they have a conflict of interest on an issue; and the introduction of deadlines for dispensation applications.

Dispensations forms will be shortened and simplified to take steps to seek the repeal of s.618 of the Housing Act 1985, which only applies to City Corporation councillors.

This law prohibits councillors living in or leasing a property owned by the City Corporation from voting on housing matters where it affects their own property.

The decision invites the City Corporation’s policy and resources committee, children and community services committee and Barbican residential committee to consider the proposal, which could allow councillors with a
financial interest in a matter to obtain a dispensation to speak on any issue affecting their constituents, lasting their whole term of office.

The current rules mean that councillors must apply for dispensations to speak on separate residential issues in which they have a financial conflict of interest. Plans will be brought back to the standards committee early next year.

Ann Holmes, chair of the City of London Corporation’s standards committee, said: “We seek to ensure the highest ethical standards of behaviour from our councillors and to maintain public confidence in our decision making.

“And we are determined to ensure that elected councillors continue to have the maximum opportunity to represent their constituents effectively under the law.

“Like local authorities, we have sought to balance the need for effective, democratic representation with the requirement to preserve public confidence in our decisions, and that financial conflicts of interest are properly managed.

“I believe these changes do just that, and I am fully confident with the system and policy which we have in place.”