Clarity and ease of understanding of the Code
Question 9: Overall, how clear do you find the proposed revised Code? Please tell us where you think the clarity of the Code could be improved, and how.
Forty-four (92%) of the 48 respondents gave an indication of how clear they considered the revised Code to be. The results are shown in the figure below. Nine respondents (20% of those responding) thought that the Code was very clear, while 25 respondents (57% of those responding to this question) thought it was mostly clear. Overall, 34 respondents (77% of those who answered this question) thought the Code was mostly or very clear.
Twenty-five respondents also provided written comments on their views in relation to the clarity of the revised Code. Where those comments dealt with matters other than the clarity of the Code, we have considered them under the following section on Final Comments, restricting the analysis here to those comments which specifically focus on the clarity of the Code.
One respondent who rated the revised Code as ‘very clear’ commented that:
“The new Councillors’ Code of Conduct is simpler, easier to understand and has been personalised. Duplication of text has also been removed all to the benefit of the document. The use of plain English also improves the content and impact of the document.
We consider that it can be improved with the addition of some graphics or dashboards to provide focus but generally the document reads well and is not over-complicated.
The relationship of the document to other supporting policies and websites should be made clear. For example, we note that the Standards Commission proposes to issue new guidance along with the revised Code and details of this revised guidance will be available on the Commission's website.”
Other respondents also noted that the Guidance will be very important to ensuring that the Code is correctly interpreted.
Several respondents who felt that the Code was ‘mostly clear’ or ‘sometimes unclear’ highlighted the areas of Gifts and Hospitality (Section 3) and/or Declaration of Interests (Section 5) as being the parts of the Code that are not yet sufficiently clear.
“Overall, the revised Code is clear, however, the language and sentence structure of Section 5: Declaration of Interests remains overly complex and may benefit from further revision.”
“Section 3 - General Conduct, Gifts and Hospitality
This section should receive a full re-draft. The current wording (and layout) is confusing and contradicts sections of the explanatory note. Fundamentally, there is a concern that the current wording may restrict councillors in carrying out their role.”
“Overall, the language and approach and formatting are major improvements. The provisions regarding gifts and hospitality (3.12 to 3.19) and lobbying (Section 6) are the exceptions, where some more simplification and streamlining would be worthwhile.”
Other comments included that the use of simple language could be more consistent, and that definitions are not always consistent.