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Constitution - Part 6B - Officers` Code of Conduct

 

 

1.1 The Nolan Committee identified seven principles which apply to all aspects of public life, and therefore to all County Council employees ('officers').  These general principles are:

Selflessness
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. 

Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work.

They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so.

Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour .They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

This Officers' Code of Conduct ('Code') incorporates these principles.

1.2 The public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct from all officers.  An officer's role is to serve the County Council in delivering services to the people of Cumbria, providing advice and implementing its policies.  In performing their duties, officers must act with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity.

1.3 Officers work for the County Council and serve the whole of the Council; they are accountable to, and owe a duty to the County Council.  Officers  must act in accordance with the principles set out in this Code, and recognise the duty of all public sector officers to discharge public functions reasonably and according to the law.

1.4 This Code applies to all Council employees.  It also applies to staff in schools where the Code has been adopted by the Governing Body as the employer.

1.5 Certain elements of the Code deal with matters which can constitute a criminal offence, an example being the section on corruption.  Not complying with this, and certain other aspects of the Code, could amount to a disciplinary offence which could result in disciplinary action.  Officers should read this Code carefully and, if they have any queries or are uncertain about its content, they contact their immediate supervisor for advice.

1.6 This Code supplements, and does not replace any code or recognised standards of conduct endorsed by any professional body of which an officer is a member.

Standards

2.1 All officers of the County Council are expected to give the highest possible standard of service to the people of Cumbria and, where it is part of your duties, to provide appropriate advice to Councillors ('members') and fellow officers with total impartiality. 

2.2 The aim of this Code is to lay down guidelines for you that will help maintain and improve standards and protect you from misunderstanding or from criticism.

2.3 Officers are expected to display the following behaviours:

(a) Communicate in a clear and constructive way.
(b) Act with honesty and respect for others.
(c) Demonstrate a positive flexible attitude.
(d) Take responsibility for our actions.
(e) Be committed to 'One Team'.

2.4 These are the agreed employee behaviours that have been developed through a process of staff engagement and are used across the council to promote positive behaviours amongst staff.

2.5 All officers have an important role in relation to protection against fraud and corruption and you should report to your manager or supervisor any concerns you may have associated with the council's finances, resources and responsibilities.

2.6 The Council's Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy and Employee Whistle Blowing Policy are set out in Parts 6D and 6E of this Constitution.  The County Council will ensure that all officers making such reports in good faith will be protected from victimisation.

2.7 You should at all times try to avoid any occasion for suspicion and any improper conduct which would bring the reputation of the County Council into disrepute.

Disclosure of Information

2.8 The law requires that certain types of information must be available to members, auditors, Government Departments, service users, and the public.  If you are in any doubt as to whether you can release any particular information, you should assume that it is confidential and seek permission before releasing it.

2.9 You must not use any confidential information obtained in the course of your  work for personal gain or benefit; nor should you pass it on to others who might use it in such a way.

2.10 You must not communicate confidential information or documents to others who do not have a legitimate right to know.  You must follow the provisions of the Data Protection Act [insert hyperlink to part 5E, FR5] regarding the disclosure of information and this continues to apply after you leave the employment of the County Council.

2.11 You must not pass on any personal information relating to a member without the prior approval of that member unless legally you are required to disclose it (for example in litigation)

Political Neutrality

2.12 You serve the County Council as a whole and must serve all members equally and ensure that the individual rights of members are respected.

2.13 Where you are required to advise political groups you must do so in ways which do not compromise your political neutrality. All officers, whether holding politically restricted posts or not, must not allow their own personal or political opinions to interfere with their work.

Relationships

Members

2.14 Mutual respect between officers and members is essential to good local government and working relationships should always be kept on a professional basis.  You should avoid close personal familiarity with individual members as this could prove embarrassing to other officers and members.

The Local Community

2.15 You should always remember your responsibilities to the community you serve, and ensure courteous, efficient, and impartial service delivery to all groups and individuals within that community as defined by the policies of the County Council.  You should deal with the public, members and other officers sympathetically, efficiently and without bias.

Contractors and Suppliers

2.16 All relationships of a business or personal nature with external contractors, potential contractors or suppliers must be declared to the appropriate manager.  Orders and contracts must be awarded on merit, by fair competition and in accordance with the Contracts Procedure Rules, and no special favour should be shown to businesses run by, for example, friends, partners or relatives. 

Recruitment and Other Employment Matters

2.17 Officers involved in appointments should ensure that these are made on merit.

2.18 In order to avoid any possible accusation of bias, you must not be involved in any appointment, or any other decisions relating to discipline, promotion or pay and conditions for any officer or prospective officer where you are related or have a close personal relationship outside work.

Outside Commitments

2.19 You should not allow official duties and private interests to conflict.  No officer should take up any outside employment or appointment which conflicts with the County Council's interests.

2.20 Officers paid above Grade 9 must not engage in any other business or take up any additional appointments without the agreement of their manager.  The County Council will not unreasonably stop you from taking additional employment, but such employment must not, in the view of the County Council, conflict with the Council's interest or bring the Council into disrepute.

Personal Interests

2.21 You must declare to your Corporate Director any financial or non-financial interests which you consider could bring about conflict with the County Council's interests.

2.22 You must make a formal declaration about contracts with the County Council in which you have a pecuniary or financial interest.  Such declarations should be sent to the Assistant Director Corporate Governance.  It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with the provision.

2.23 You must not make official professional decisions about matters in which you have a personal involvement.  You must not misuse your official position or information acquired in the course of your employment to further your private interests, or the interests of others.
Equality

2.24 All members of the local community and other officers of the County Council have a right to be treated with fairness and equity.  You should ensure that all policies relating to equality issues as agreed by the County Council are complied with.

Tendering Procedures

2.25 Officers involved in the tendering process and dealing with contractors should be clear on the separation of client and contractor roles within the County Council.

2.26 Officers in commissioning, procurement, contract management roles, or in client units, must exercise fairness and impartiality when dealing with all customers, suppliers, other contractors, and sub-contractors.

2.27 Officers who are privy to confidential information on tenders, or costs relating to either internal or external contractors, should not disclose that information to any unauthorised party or organisation.

2.28 Officers contemplating a management buyout should, as soon as they have formed a definite intent, inform the appropriate manager and withdraw from the contact awarding process.

Corruption

2.29 You must be aware that it is a serious criminal offence for you corruptly to receive or give any gift, loan, fee, reward, or advantage for doing, or not doing, anything or showing favour, or disfavour, to any person in your  official capacity. Allegations of this nature will be investigated and dealt with in accordance with the County Council's disciplinary procedure.

Financial Standing Orders

2.30 All employees involved in financial activities and transactions on behalf of the County Council, including budget management, payment of accounts, payment of salaries and wages, petty cash, and orders for works, goods, or services, must follow the Part 5G 'Financial Standing Orders' in this Constitution, as approved by the Council.

2.31 You must ensure that you use public funds in a responsible and lawful manner. You should strive to ensure value for money to the local community, and to avoid legal challenge to the County Council.

Gifts

2.32 A potential source of conflict between private and public interests is the offer of gifts, hospitality, or benefits in kind to officers in connection with their official duties.

2.33 With the exceptions listed below, you should refuse any personal gift offered to you, or to any family member, by any person or organisation who has dealings with the County Council.  Any such offer should be reported to the appropriate senior manager.  In the event of receiving a gift, legacy, or bequest in circumstances where services have been provided by the County Council, you should inform your senior manager and seek advice.  If you try to influence or put pressure on a client to leave you a bequest in their will this will be regarded as serious misconduct.

2.34 When a gift has to be refused, this should be done with tact and courtesy, because the offering of gifts is common practice in the commercial world, particularly at Christmas time.  If the gift is simply delivered to your at your place of work, there may be a problem returning it, in which case it should be reported to the appropriate senior manager and the agreed course of action should be clearly documented.

Exceptions

2.35 Gifts of a promotional nature through attendance at relevant conferences or on the conclusion of any courtesy visit to a factory or firm of a sort normally given by that firm and where it is clear that the gift is corporate rather than personal.

2.36 Gifts of a token value, often given at Christmas time, such as diaries, calendars, pens etc. (in general, any isolated gift of up to £ 10 in value).

Hospitality

2.37 You should only accept offers of hospitality if there is a genuine need to impart information or represent the County Council in the community.    Offers to attend purely social or sporting functions should be accepted only when these are part of the life of the community and where the County Council should be seen to be represented.  In such cases they should be authorised by a senior manager and recorded.

2.38 Where hospitality is offered you should be particularly sensitive as to its timing in relation to decisions which the County Council may be taking that may affect those providing the hospitality. It is important to avoid any suggestion of improper influence and you should speak to senior managers to decide whether a gift or an offer of hospitality should be accepted or tactfully rejected.

2.39 In general terms, it will often be more acceptable to join in hospitality offered to a group than to accept something unique to yourself.  There may be times when an offer of hospitality should be rejected, when normally it would be regarded as acceptable. An example would be if the body or person offering the hospitality is in a contract dispute with the county council.  

2.40 All offers of hospitality, whether accepted or not, should be reported to the senior manager concerned, who shall keep a record of such offers and the decision taken on acceptance or refusal.

Sponsorship

2.41 Where an outside organisation wishes to sponsor a County Council activity, whether by invitation, tender, negotiation, or voluntarily, the basic conventions concerning acceptance of gifts or hospitality apply.  Particular care must be taken when dealing with contractors or potential contractors.

2.42 Where the County Council wishes to sponsor an event or service, neither an officer nor any partner, spouse, or relative, must benefit from such sponsorship in a direct way without there being full disclosure to an appropriate manager of any such interest.

2.43 Similarly, where the County Council, through sponsorship, grant-aid, financial or other means, gives support in the community, officers should ensure that impartial advice is given, and that there is no conflict of interest involved.