Councillors back 'transparent' planning

A STANDARDS watchdog has convinced district planners to adopt new guidelines to ensure the system is ethical and transparent .

A STANDARDS watchdog has convinced district planners to adopt new guidelines to ensure the system is 'ethical and transparent'.

In the midst of the expenses scandal East Devon District Council members adopted the new guidance on dealing with planning applications from the independent head of their Standards Committee.

Mr Ted Butt told councillors of the Government's 'Probity in Planning', the latest advice on making ethical and transparent planning decisions.

He said it would help in 'balancing the needs and interests of individuals and the community, with the need to maintain transparent decision-making.'

The Standards Committee investigates complaints against parish and district councilors and Mr Butt said a large proportion - 15 cases this year - had been about planning.

He said: "We must not only ensure that our decision-making about planning matters is ethical and transparent but is seen by the public to be exactly that. The public must have confidence in the system."

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He reminded Members of the special focus on MP's expenses during the summer, which meant that scrutiny of all elected representatives, had been put into the spotlight.

He said: "It is most important that the work of Local Councillors is both ethical and transparent as it is now under closer scrutiny than ever before".

Mr Butt reminded Members that the Standards Committee does not exist simply to deal with complaints against Councillors.

He said: "We are working closely with Councillor Mrs Ann Liverton, the Member Champion for Member Development, to help progress the development programme to help new Members understand the Code of Conduct more easily.

"The Standards Committee wants to be more proactive and help Members to avoid having complaints made against them in the first place.

"I'd like to end by reminding Members of the General Principle of the Code of Conduct, which sums up not only the work of the Standards Committee but the work that the Council should be striving to achieve.

"Members should promote and support the principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence".