Do no Evil

 

Didn’t that use to be the motto of Google? I think we would want something more positive in local government. But it does capture the idea that we need to have values and principles in our organisations.

 

I recently read an article on integrity by a university lecture at a leading business school. The author asks the question what do we mean when we say some one lacks integrity? In answer she suggests integrity is about sticking to your values and principles, mean what you say and do what you say you will. The author refers to managers and leaders who demonstrate integrity as being consistent over a period of time and being explicit about their values. Writing about local government the author implies that a lack of clarity about what constitutes integrity mean codes of conduct are ineffective.

 

I don’t think any one would disagree with her definition of integrity, as far as it goes, so the issue is not a lack of clarity but the different and sometimes conflicting roles expected of members . A local councillor is usually a member of a political party with a set of values and beliefs which they sign up to , they also represent the interest and views of people in their ward. These two roles can come into conflict.

 

When for example a councillor votes in support of the authority’s waste disposal strategy but leads the local protest against locating the industrial incinerator in their ward. Does this mean they lack integrity? Is the councillor who votes in support of the proposed budget cuts but only after getting an assurance from the leader that the Library in their ward with not be closed demonstrating a lack of integrity?

 

The challenge to officers is different. Has the leader or chief executive got the right to expect their officers will support their decisions? If a senior manager expresses sever doubts about the chief executives proposals, viewing them as contrary to their professional values and principles, but in public gives their total support to the plan being guilty of a lack of integrity?

 

We want are politicians and officers to act with integrity because we want to feel we can trust them but we don’t expect officers to resign as a matter of principle every time they are asked to do something that dose not sit comfortably with their professional and personal values. Like wise we need to acknowledge that local councillors wear more than one hat and that they are not being hypocritical in supporting the party strategy but being critical of its implementation.

 

The easy part is defining integrity the hard part is applying it in a complex political environment.

 


Blair Mcpherson former Director , author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

 

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