Politically restricted post guidance
Under the provisions of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 certain posts within local authorities are subject to restrictions on political activities, which, post holders are able to undertake. The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 introduced changes to this legislation which came into force in January 2010.
The Council is required to produce and regularly review a list of politically restricted posts.
Politically restricted posts fall into two broad categories; and are either specified posts or posts with defined duties (known as ‘sensitive posts’).
The 2010 Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 specified posts, currently in operation at Warwick District Council are:-
- The Head of Paid Service (s4 LGHA)
- Non-statutory chief officers (officers reporting to the Head of Paid Service, excluding secretarial/clerical support staff) (s7 LGHA)
- The Monitoring Officer (s5 LGHA)
- The Chief Finance Officer (Section 151) (s151 LGA 1972)
- Heads of Service (reporting directly to Statutory & Non Statutory Chief Officers (s8 LGHA)
- Officers exercising delegated powers, i.e. persons whose posts are for the time being specified by the authority in a list maintained in accordance with s 100G(2) of the LGA 1972
Those members of staff employed in posts specified by statue as Politically Restricted will receive written confirmation from the HR Team.
A sensitive post is one which meets one or both of the following duties related criteria:
- Giving advice on a regular basis to Council, Executive, Committee, Sub-Committee or any joint Committee the Council is represented at;
- Those who speak on behalf of the authority on a regular basis to journalists and broadcasters.
Where advice is purely factual information, employees are not covered by political restrictions.
The legislation does not provide a definition of “regular”. However, the use of the word “regular” would suggest that something more than an occasional attendance to present a formal report to a committee is needed to establish that advice is given on a regular basis. In determining whether an employee’s post falls within the definition, consideration should be given to the following:
- the number of times over the previous 12 months that the post holder either attended or provided a report for, those groups described above
- the number of times over, for example, the previous 12 months that the post holder has provided a report to an individual member of the Executive
Warwick District Council has defined the objective criteria for ‘Political Restriction’ as meeting the criteria in Category A or B approximately 6 times a year. That is attending or providing a report for Committee 6 times a year OR providing a report for an individual member of the Executive 6 times a year, however this may fluctuate at times.
Those members of staff employed in posts designated by the Chief Executive as “sensitive” will receive written confirmation from the HR Team, together with the right appeal
Employees in politically restricted posts are effectively prevented from having an active political life either inside or outside the workplace. Employees in politically restricted posts are automatically disqualified from standing for or holding elected office as:-
- Local councillor
- Members of the Welsh Assembly
- Members of the Scottish Parliament
They are also restricted from:
- Participating in political activities, publicly expressing support for a political party or undertaking other activities on behalf of a political party or someone seeking to be a candidate. This includes canvassing.
- Being an officer of a political party (or any branch of a party); or becoming a member of any committee or sub-committee where the duties might require (a) to participation in the general management of the party or the branch; or (b) to act on behalf of the party or branch in dealing with people other than members of the party or members of another associated political party.
- Speaking to the public at large or publishing any written or artistic work that could give the impression that they are advocating support for a political party or someone seeking to be a candidate; where the intention is to affect public support for a political party. This includes giving an interview that is likely to result in the publication of statements made or opinions expressed.
The effect of these restrictions is to prevent politics from coming into play where an employee is in a politically influential position. This could arise where an employee implements the Council’s policies, gives advice to the Council, or speaks on behalf of the Council.
Identifying politically restricted positions
Whenever a role is created and job description drafted, the nature of the job needs to be considered and political restrictions identified at that stage. Where a position is politically restricted then this will be clearly explained at the outset of any recruitment campaign. The political restriction will be noted on the new employee’s personal file. Where a role is not politically restricted no further action is required.
- Specified posts – there is no right of appeal for a post to not be designated as specified.
- Sensitive posts – the Chief Executive (as Head of Paid Service) has the authority to grant exemptions from political restrictions. Employees wishing to appeal should write to the Monitoring Officer setting out the reasons they feel their post should not be politically restricted and provide a copy of their job description. The Monitoring Officer will then provide a view on the request to the Head of Paid Service for consideration.
Restrictions on members becoming officers
A local authority cannot appoint as an employee in any capacity, any councillor who is currently a member of that authority or who had been a member in the previous 12 months (s.116 LGA 1972)
Note: this does not preclude a councillor being appointed to or elected to a position on the executive that could be described as ‘paid office’.