The Local Government Act 2001 provided for a new and comprehensive ethics framework for those involved in local government. This built on long-standing ethics requirements on local authority councillors and staff under planning legislation, which predated other legislation.
Part 15 of the Act was brought into operation from January 2003 and the codes of conduct for councillors and employees were published in June 2004. Part 15 requires an annual declaration of interests by councillors and staff, disclosure of a pecuniary or beneficial interest where a matter arises at a meeting or in course of an employee's work and a public register of interests. The purpose of the codes is to set out standards and principles of conduct and integrity for councillors and staff, to inform the public of the conduct it is entitled to expect and to uphold public confidence in the local government system.
The effectiveness of the operation of the local government ethics legislation is kept under close and active review in the light of experience since its introduction. I will continue to monitor developments in this regard and will bring forward proposals for amendments to the codes, if necessary. In this context, as stated in the reply to Question No. 546 of 7 February, the issue of local government officials accepting outside appointments or consultancies following resignation or retirement has not, up to now, been addressed by the codes of conduct. However, my Department has formulated proposals to amend the codes in this regard and the Standards in Public Office Commission and the Department of Finance are currently being consulted on the drafts. A decision on the proposed amendments will be made as quickly as possible.
In addition, local authority members must comply with a comprehensive regulatory regime with regard to disclosure of political donations, in accordance with the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999, as amended. The Act also provides for offences and penalties where a member fails to meet the statutory requirements.