Section 4: Registration of interests
Question 5: Do you have any comments on the changes proposed for Section 4: Registration of Interests?
Of the 48 respondents, 23 (48%) said that they had no comments to make on the changes proposed for Section 3 of the Code. Twenty-two (46%) respondents did want to make comments on the changes, and three (6%) did not answer.
Several respondents supported the removal of the requirement for councillors to make their address publicly available, on the grounds of safety for councillors and their families (Paragraph 4.19). One respondent felt that this provision does not yet go far enough:
“The recognition of the safety and security issues of Councillors is welcomed at Section 4.19 however some Elected Members feel that the wording does not go far enough, and that no property or land information should be in the public domain. Instead it should be held securely by the Monitoring Officer. Given the public role Elected Members have, some still feel their homes could be potentially identified, even with the reduced ward area information.”
Two respondents felt that there were some potential contradictions between the wording of Paragraph 4.4 and that in 4.5:
“There is some confusion when comparing the wording of Section 4.4 (f) which requires an Elected Member to register any remuneration received from a body to which they are appointed or nominated to by the Council; and Section 4.5 which states ‘I do not have to register any work I carry out on behalf of the Council in my capacity as councillor’. Some clarity on this wording would be helpful.”
The majority of the remaining comments related to Paragraph 4.20, which deals with the definition of what constitutes a registrable interest in shares or securities. One respondent felt that Paragraph 4.20(b) should simply be removed. Another felt that it was unreasonable to expect councillors to track the value of shares as they go up or down, to ensure that the Code is not breached. And another felt that the allowance is too high and should be lowered. A more detailed response considers that the wording in both the current Code and the Draft Model Code was clearer Specifically:
“The current wording is not clear if £25,000 is the total cumulative shareholding or only related to the declared interest. The current wording or draft wording for the model Code provides more clarity.”
Two respondents asked for more clarity and detailed examples of non-financial interests to be provided for Paragraph 4.24. One respondent suggested that ‘memberships’ should be added as a category of interest in its own right.
“Councillors should be required to register any membership of or affiliation with a group or organisation, formal or informal, which might reasonably be expected to seek to influence council policy and decisions.
This type of activity appears to be growing in prevalence and the likelihood of perceived or actual influence is significant enough to merit the issue of memberships being separated out from the catch-all ‘non-financial interests’ category.”