Commentary: Standards Committees: Just an Interesting Idea, or Are There Wider Lessons We Can Learn?

Published date01 January 2014
Date01 January 2014
Standards Committees: Just an Interesting Idea, or Are There Wider Lessons We Can Learn? 85
Mike Reid is principal advisor at Local
Government New Zealand, the association
of local authorities. He has written widely
on local government issues and is a visiting
lecturer at a number of universities. His
doctorate focused on strengthening local
Mike Reid
Local Government New Zealand, New Zealand
In their article “Localism in Practice:
Investigating Citizen Participation and Good
Governance in Local Government Standards
of Conduct,” Alan Lawton and Michael Macaulay
of‌f er us an interesting look into what was a unique
approach to promoting good governance and good
behavior among local elected members. Introduced
by New Labour, the requirement to adopt codes of
conduct and establish standards committees was an
interesting approach to building better engagement
with citizens and trust in democratic processes.  e
committees were composed of elected politicians,
appointed of‌f‌i cials, and independent members
drawn from the wider community, whose role was,
at best, part time.
In the years that the standing committees operated,
it is clear that a substantial amount of policy learning
took place. Well-established committees interpreted
their role as being concerned with the promotion
of local participation and the enhancement of good
governance, and some branched out in a range of
directions.  e authors’ methodology, which uses case
studies on the basis of the degree to which committees
extended their focus beyond the statutory minimum,
is helpful, as it assists us in understanding the poten-
tial scope of their activities and the possibility of
e article accurately notes the opportunity of com-
mittees to provide a path for citizen participation,
albeit coalescing around their overall purpose to
enhance governance and improve behavior. Given the
opportunity for participation created by the commit-
tees, a key part of the research is to examine and assess
the transformative nature of the experience on the
independent members.  e authors suggest, in terms
of Bang’s model of “ever yday makers” and “expert
citizens,” that it might be more accurate to describe
experienced committee members as having become
“everyday makers.”
is writer was surprised by the broad interpretation
the case study committees took toward their brief.
In comparison to the “ethics” regime within New
Zealand local government, the case study committees
took an active interest in topics such as the recruit-
ment and retention of staf‌f , training and development
of elected members, engagement with schools, and
relationships with local and parish councils.
Standards Committees: Just an Interesting Idea, or Are  ere
Wider Lessons We Can Learn?
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pp. 85–86. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12173.

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