Anger over ‘politicised’ standards changes

Councillors said new rules on judging members standards have ‘taken democracy away’ as independent members of the public are set to lose their voting rights from Monday.

At a special meeting of East Devon District Council (EDDC) on Wednesday, some members pushed for a motion protesting the new government regulations.

Claire Wright wanted to send a letter to the Department of Communities and Local Government, expressing ‘deep disappointment’ about the changes.

Currently the Standards Committee panel is made up of a mixture of district councillors, town councillors and members of the public, all of whom can vote on whether a councillor has broken the code of conduct.

But the new system weighs more heavily in favour of the district councillors, and independent members will not be able to vote.

Cllr Wright said: “As councillors on the committee will be mostly Conservative, with only one Liberal Democrat member, it leaves the door wide open for party politics to play a major role in determining complaints against other councillors.”

Councillor Derek Button called for a motion on the issue but was outvoted 27 to 16.

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He said ‘democracy had been taken away,’ with the removal of voting rights for independent committee members, and the public would lose faith in the system.

Cllr Wright added: “It is quite incomprehensible that the Localism Act, which was hailed as handing more powers to councils and bringing about greater democracy, has shamelessly abandoned democracy in the standards process and replaced it with a party political system.”