Standards Committee will not face Court of Common Council scrutiny


A call for a group of councillors to look into the way the City of London investigates complaints about them has been rejected.

The City of London holds its Standards Meetings behind closed doors – which it is allowed to do by law. It means that the names of councillors who appear are kept secret – unless they choose to go public.

But some councillors are unhappy about councillors sitting in judgement on each other.

Councillor Marianne Fredericks asked the Corporation’s full council meeting – known as the Court of Common Council to vote for a working party to look at the Standards Committee.

She told colleagues meeting virtually: “I strongly believe that we should be looking to the future and not to the past.”

Her motion got the backing of 59 councillors – the highest number in living memory.

It follows a review of the controversial  dispensations committee which had banned some councillors who live in the Barbican from voting or speaking about housing issues there. Most Square Mile residents live there.

And last year more than 1,000 residents signed a no confidence petition in the standards committee about the issue.

During a debate – held virtually – councillors decided to wait for the results of an independent review of governance at the City Corporation.

Ann Holmes who chairs the Standards Committee said: “The majority of members agree that our process is as liberal as the law will allow.”

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Deputy Keith Bottomley said that “some feel that there has been rough justice or no justice”, but thought there was no need for a working party.

This was because the Corporation has already commissioned an independent review from cross bench peer Lord Lisvane. He is due to share his findings in September.

And councillor Bottomley said the committee’s costs “are also of concern to members”.

It cost £101,828 in 2018, and dropped to £46,647 last year.

The council spent £46,041 in internal costs over the last three hearings which went to review and paid outside lawyers £65,529.

Christopher Hayward said the current “self governing process has failed to gain the confidence of this court and some of our electors. It is perceived as divisive.”

But he said that as the Corporation concentrates on supporting residents and businesses hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic “considering our internal operations might be seen as fiddling while Rome burns, or navel gazing.”

Councillor Mark Wheatley said: “Kindness is at the heart of our works.”

And he said recently he had seen “good colleagues named and shamed and angry with each other.”

James Tumbridge said: “Sitting in judgement leads to discord.”

He said it can be “lonely and challenging” for councillors facing standards hearings at councils throughout the country.

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