A report of the Head of Legal and Democratic Services was presented to provide details of a consultation by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) with regard to updating the disqualification criteria for local authority members and to seek the views and recommendations from the Committee as to whether the Council should make representations to the consultation.
The DCLG issued a consultation document setting out the Government's proposals for updating the criteria disqualifying individuals from standing for, or holding office as, a Local Authority Member, Directly-Elected Mayor or Member of the London Assembly if they were subject to:
The notification requirements set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (commonly referred to as 'being on the sex offenders register');
A civil injunction granted under section 1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act; or
A Criminal Behaviour Order made under section 22 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Existing legislation prevented individuals from standing, or holding office, as a Local Authority Member, London Assembly Member or Directly-Elected Mayor if they had, within five years of the day of the election, or since their election, been convicted in the UK, Channel Isles or Isle of Man, of any offence and had received a sentence of imprisonment, suspended or not, for a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine.
The Government considered that the law should be updated to reflect new options which existed to protect the public and address unlawful and unacceptable behaviour.
The consultation proposed updating the disqualification criteria in section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972, paragraph 9 or schedule 5B to the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, and section 21 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to prohibit those subject to the notification requirements (commonly referred to as 'being on the sex offenders register') and those subject to certain anti-social behaviour sanctions from being Local Authority Members, London Assembly Members or Directly-Elected Members.
Any changes to the disqualification criteria would require changes to primary legislation and the proposed changes would not act retrospectively.
Members gave consideration to the six questions on page 16 of the consultation document, which formed the consultation response as follows:
Question 1 - there was agreement with the statement.
Question 2 - it was queried whether an individual who was subject to a Sexual Risk Order was a threat to vulnerable or young people, since they would have access to sensitive and personal information as part of their role.
Question 3 - it was highlighted that even peaceful protesting could lead to the issue of a Civil Injunction.
Question 4 - it was suggested that convictions against misuse of social media should be taken into account.
Question 5 - specific reference needed to be made as to how those characteristics should be protected.
Question 6 - a suggestion was made with regard to improved vetting at the time of standing for election.
The Chair also commented that she would like to see the Standards Committee strengthened with stronger sanctions made available.
The closing date for the consultation was Friday 8 December 2017.
AGREED as follows:
1. Additional information in relation to guidance for prosecutors would be circulated to the Committee.
2. The Members and Statutory Services Manager would produce a draft response and circulate it to Members for comment.
3. The Chair would approve the final submission on behalf of the Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee.