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