MD2612 Code of Ethics and Standards for Staff - Revision

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Code: 
MD2612
Date signed: 
18 March 2020
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

The Code of Ethics and Standards for Staff (“the Staff Code”) presents the standards of conduct that the Greater London Authority (GLA) expects staff to achieve in order to promote the highest standards of public service and help the GLA to achieve high ethical standards and meet its statutory obligations.

As part of the Chief Officer’s review of the registration and declaration of interests and gifts and hospitality, the Staff Code requires review, specifically to include much more detailed and prescriptive information about the registering and handling of interests.

The Staff Code applies to all staff, whether appointed by the Mayor or Head of Paid Service (HOPS). The document, as one of the GLA’s significant governance documents, requires the joint approval by the Assembly and the Mayor in relation to Statutory Officers. The Mayor must approve the changes for the Mayoral Appointees. The Head of Paid Service has been requested separately by way of a Chief Officer’s Decision Form to approve the changes in respect of all other GLA employees.

This Decision provides the Mayor’s approval.

Decision

That the Mayor, jointly with the London Assembly (in relation to Statutory Officers) and the Mayor alone (in relation to Mayoral Appointees) adopts the revised GLA Code of Ethics and Standards for Staff as set out in Appendix 1.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

The Chief Officer was asked by the Members of the London Assembly’s GLA Oversight Committee in 2019 to review the GLA’s approach to the registration of interests.

The Staff Code is the principal document which sets out the standards of conduct that the GLA expects staff to achieve in order to promote the highest standards of public service and help the GLA to achieve high ethical standards and meet its statutory obligations. It applies to all staff, both those appointed by the Mayor, and those by the HOPS. A breach of the Staff Code can lead to disciplinary action under staff Terms and Conditions of Employment.

As a result of this review, it is proposed to substantially strengthen the interests section of the Staff Code. The current Staff Code sets out the following three points only:

Section 2.5 “(a) Staff who have an interest whether financial or otherwise, or if any person related to them or with whom they have a close personal relationship, has any interest in any organisation which has any business dealings with the Authority, are required to disclose such interests immediately and ensure that the details are recorded in the Authority’s Register of Interests.
(b) Staff must make a declaration of interest on any issue on which they are advising the Mayor or Assembly which affects an interest held by them, or any person related to them or with whom they have a close personal relationship whether financial or otherwise, and ensure that the details are recorded in the Authority’s Register of Interests. The register of declarations of interests is maintained in the office of the Monitoring Officer.
(c) To ensure openness and transparency, declarations of interest may be published on the GLA’s website.”

On review, this was considered to be insufficient in setting out the obligations on staff, and as such the following changes are proposed.

It is proposed that the Seven Principles of Public Life (the Nolan principles) should be included in the Staff Code. These principles are present in the Members’ Code of Conduct but are not explicitly set out in the Staff Code currently. These will be inserted into the Introduction at section 1.4 of the Staff Code.

Changes are proposed to Section 2.4 (Trust and Confidence) to reflect the inclusion of personal interests (as well as private interests) and to reference that failure to declare a pecuniary/financial interest in contracts with the GLA and accepting fees and rewards over and above an employee’s normal renumeration may amount to a criminal offence. This is further expanded in a new section of the Staff Code, section 2.5C.

The main change is the inclusion of a new section which is a much more substantial section on the declaration and registration on interests. In summary, it sets out the following:

a) Formally declaring “disclosable pecuniary interests” and other “significant disclosable interests” (a new category);
b) Action on becoming aware of a disclosable interest; and
c) Criminal offences involving pecuniary interests in GLA contracts and accepting improper fees or rewards.

In addition a few drafting changes and factual updates have been made to the remainder of the document.

The proposed revised Staff Code is attached in Appendix 1. A guidance note for staff is also being produced to further support these changes.

Unison has been informally consulted on the proposed revised Staff Code and has not made any objections to it. It will respond to the formal consultation on 16 March although it is not expected that there will any issues identified. Changes in respect of GLA employees, other than Mayoral Appointees and Statutory Officers, will need to be approved separately by the Head of Paid Service in accordance with the GLA Head of Paid Service Staffing Protocol.

Objectives and expected outcomes

These revisions to the Staff Code will ensure that the GLA continues to be in a strong position to comply with the Principles of Standards in Public Life, themselves newly referenced in the Staff Code, as well as furthering its commitment to transparency and accountability. It also assists in ensuring that the GLA achieves high ethical standards, not only through the Mayor and Assembly Members but also through its staff.

Equality comments

Section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 provides that in the exercise of their functions, public authorities must have due regard to the need to:

• Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act 2010;
• Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and
• Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

Protected characteristics under the Equality Act are age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and marriage or civil partnership status (the duty in respect of this last characteristic is to eliminate unlawful discrimination only).

The obligation in section 149(1) is placed upon the Mayor, as decision maker. Due regard must be had at the time a decision is being considered. The duty is non-delegable and must be exercised with an open mind.

The potential equalities implications of changes to this policy have been considered and it is concluded there are no implications arising. The Staff Code will apply to all GLA staff.

Other considerations

The London Assembly GLA Oversight Committee has been consulted on the proposed changes.

The Staff Code, as a matter for joint determination by the Mayor and London Assembly (in relation to Statutory Officers) is being submitted to the London Assembly for consideration and adoption at its meeting on 19 March 2020. This decision note seeks the Mayor’s consideration and approval of the Staff Code in relation to Statutory Officers and Mayoral Appointees. The HOPS will provide approval separately by way of a Chief Officer’s Decision Form.

No specific conflicts of interest have arisen in the consideration of this decision.

Financial comments

There are no direct financial implications arising from this decision.

Planned delivery approach and next steps

Once adopted, the Assistant Director, HR &OD and Monitoring Officer will jointly write to all GLA staff to advise them of the revised version of the Staff Code. The Staff Code will also be published on the intranet and on London.gov.uk. The HR team will additionally publish a blog, so staff are aware that the Code has been updated and the Chief Officer will promote through her ‘Core Brief’ staff newsletter.

The Staff Code will be regularly kept under review, including how the revised arrangements for interests are operating.


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