This hard hitting allegation follows the adoption, by KCC, the 12 District and many of the county’s 314 Town and Parish Councils, of the so-called “Kent Code of Conduct for Members (2)”The Code, which replaces rules set by the now defunct Standards Board for England, regulates the ethical behaviour of most of Kent’s 2,500(3) plus councillors. Amongst other things it allows them to accept gifts and hospitality up to the value of £100 without any need to make a declaration (4). This is a 400% increase on the Standards Board for England previous declaration limit of £25 for gifts and hospitality.
Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, who voted against Thanet Council’s decision to adopt the controversial gifts and hospitality rules said, “it’s morally wrong for County, District, Town or Parish Councillors to accept any form of payment or gift from constituents, businesses, lobbyists, or any other organisation. Permitting councillors to accept treats of up to £99.99 without any declaration sends out all the wrong messages. It’s like saying that Kent’s Councillors are free to pimp out their services and influence for £99.99 a go without anyone finding out. This ill-conceived Code is a charter for corruption which reinforces the already widespread impression that most politicians have their snouts in the trough. It brings local government into serious disrepute”.Driver’s views are supported by the world’s leading anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, which in a recent report, “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks”, said that “Without transparency about gifts and hospitality, there can be no serious scrutiny of an important channel through which individuals or interest groups might seek to corruptly influence members (5)”.
Said Driver “I call on the County, District, Town and Parish Councils to review their Codes of Conduct and introduce changes which prohibit councillors from receiving any gifts or hospitality from constituents, lobbyists or any other organisations. I encourage the people of Kent to lobby their Councillors to put an end to this charter for corruption”
1. The Guardian 26th December
2. Kent Code of Conduct for Members
The Kent Code of Conduct for Members has been adopted by Kent County Council and the 12 District Councils. There are 314 Town and Parish Councils in Kent. Many, but not all of them, have adopted the Kent Code of Conduct of Members. Random internet checks revealed the following 10 Town and Parish Councils to have adopted the Kent Code of Conduct for Members Boughton Malherbe Parish Council, Brenzett Parish Council, Dymchurch Parish Council, Hawkinge Town Council, Hythe Town Council, New Romney Town Council, Mersham and Sevington Parish Council, Merewith Parish Council and Stanhope Parish Council.3. KCC has 84 councillors, each of the 12 district councils have on average 50 councillors and the 314 town and parish councils have on average 6 councillors. This gives an estimated total of County, District, Town and Parish councillors of 2,568.
4. See paragraph 7 of the Kent Code of Conduct for Members.
5. See page 45 of “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks”Transparency International October 2013 page 45