The Monitoring Officer is appointed under Section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and has a number of statutory functions in addition to those recently conferred under the Local Government Act 2000 and subsequent regulations governing local investigations into Member conduct.
The Monitoring Officer effectively serves as the guardian of the Council's Constitution and the decision-making process. He or she is responsible for advising the Council on the legality of its decision and providing guidance to the Councillors on the Council Constitution and its powers. The Monitoring Officer is the link between Councillors and co-opted Members and the Council Constitution.
Role of Monitoring Officer in Council's constitution
As stated in the Council Constitution, the Monitoring Officer has specific responsibility for:
- Ensuring lawfulness and fairness of decision making - After consulting the Head of Paid Service and Chief Financial Officer (assuming it is reasonably practical and appropriate to do so), the Monitoring Officer must report to the Assembly (or to the Executive in relation to an Executive function) if he or she considers that any proposal, decision or omission is unlawful, or if any decision or omission is maladministration. Such a report will have the effect of stopping the proposal or decision being implemented until the report has been considered
- Supporting the Standards Committee - The Monitoring Officer contributes to the promotion and maintenance of high standards of conduct providing support to the Standards Committee
- Register of Interests - The Monitoring Officer is responsible for establishing and maintaining the Register of Interests for Members and co-opted Members of the Council
- Receiving reports - The Monitoring Officer receives and acts on reports made by Ethical Standards Officers (appointed by Standards for England) and decisions of related case tribunals
- Code of Conduct Complaints - The Monitoring Officer receives on behalf of the Standards Committee complaints about Members' actions in relation to the Code of Conduct and deals with matters relating thereto
- Conducting investigations - The Monitoring Officer has to arrange for (i) the conduct of investigations into any matters referred by the Standards Committee, a Standards Sub-Committee or Ethical Standards Officers and (ii) reports or recommendations in respect of them to the Standards Committee or a Standards Sub-Committee
- Proper Officer for Access to Information - The Monitoring Officer ensures that Executive decisions, together with the reasons for those decisions and relevant reports and background papers, are made publicly available as soon as possible
- Advising whether Executive decisions are within the budget and policy framework - The Monitoring Officer advises, if necessary, whether decisions of the Executive are in accordance with the budget and policy framework
- Providing advice - The Monitoring Officer provides advice on the scope of powers and authority to take decisions, maladministration, financial impropriety, probity and budget and policy framework issues
Read the full Council Constitution (This particular passage is found in Section G, 5.4.1). In this context Part G and Part H may prove to be the most useful for further information.
The government has taken steps to maintain high standards in councils and has established a body which is called 'Standards for England'.
The Monitoring Officer is responsible for establishing and maintaining an effective working relationship with Standards for England.