High standards in public life are not negotiable!

December 15, 2020 5:49 PM
By UDC Liberal Democrat Group
Uttlesford Liberal Democrats were deeply disappointed by the failure of a cross party motion to re-affirm a commitment at Uttlesford District Council to the well-established Seven Principles of Public Life, also known as the "Nolan Principles". These principles outline the ethical standards that those working in the public sector are expected to adhere to. They are found in Codes of Conduct all across public life.
In light of recent allegations of misconduct and the related refusal of Uttlesford District Council's auditors to sign off the Council's accounts (see this report in the local press: https://www.bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk/news/police-investigating-possible-criminal-offences-at-uttlesford-district-council-9144824/), Liberal Democrat District Councillor Melvin Caton, with cross-party support, proposed a motion which asked the Council to reaffirm its commitment to the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership- and to the highest level of Governance in its dealings with officers, members and the public.
The motion:
(1) called on the Executive and/or the Chief Executive to clarify the cause and implications of the Auditors' refusal (if necessary in a confidential private briefing of all members);
(2) asked any relevant member(s) to step down from any position appointed by Council or Cabinet until such time as residents and members can be assured that the situation has been satisfactorily resolved; and
(3) reminded all members of their responsibility to abide by the Councillors' Code of Conduct.
RFU Councillors voted together to not only ensure that debate was curtailed (before all Councillors had been given the chance to speak) but also to defeat the motion. Former Chairman of Uttlesford District Council and current Liberal Democrat Councillor, Geoffrey Sell, said, "The debate and resulting decision was a dismal day for democracy in Uttlesford."
Subsequent to the vote and in protest at the outcome, Liberal Democrat Councillors Alan Dean and Janice Loughlin have resigned from the Councils Standards Committee.
Melvin Caton commented, "Regardless of the outcome, we as a Liberal Democrat Group will continue to work with like-minded councillors hold this Council to account for its responsibility to act with the highest levels of integrity. This is not a party political matter, this is a reflection of the trust voters place in us, as Councillors, to act with the utmost integrity as we deal with the issues facing this district."