Letter: Local government demands the highest standards of probity

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is no excuse for corruption or nepotism in local government on the part of members, officers or the workforce. No excuse for Monklands or Westminster. Such examples are, however, highly unrepresentative of local government as a whole and provide no basis for the comprehensive smearing of councils, councillors and council employees reflected in David Walker's article ("The true cost of corruption", 22 June) and, to some extent, in your editorial of 22 June ("From Monklands to San Francisco").

There is no evidence whatsoever that standards of probity in local government are lower than in central government, quangos or the private sector. There is some evidence to suggest they are higher and there is certainly the likelihood of greater scrutiny and detection of wrongdoing, though this would admittedly be enhanced if the press, took its responsibility to inform communities more fully of local government affairs.

You allege that "there is not much popular faith" in local government - yet opinion polls consistently show a great deal more faith in local government than in central government or other institutions. Are we really to be told that US local government, be it in San Francisco or elsewhere, is a model of integrity and an example to be followed? Ask the voters of Washington, New York, Chicago and, yes, San Francisco! Ask them about the relationship of City Hall to private industry or labour unions led by racketeers.

There is no room for complacency about standards in public life or in British local government; there is also no occasion to impugn the motives and actions of thousands of elected members of all political parties or those who choose to be employed in local public services.

Yours faithfully,

Jeremy Beecham

Chairman

Association of Metropolitan

Authorities

London, SW1

22 June

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