Ethics at the crossroads? Development in the ethical framework for local government

Michael Macaulay, Alan L Lawton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses the current state of the ethical framework for local government, which developed under the broader Modernisation Agenda of the Local Government Act 2000. It argues that the local government framework stands at a crossroads between the high road and the low road of ethics. Whereas the low road leads down the path of compliance and quantifiable performance measures, the high road is far more ambitious and leads to a culture of ethical governance. Recent developments - such as upcoming Section 66 regulations and the expansion of the role of the monitoring officer - have highlighted the choice between these two paths. This article will analyse the scope of unethical activity in local government, primarily in England, and map the regulatory terrain of the local government ethical framework. It identifies precursors to the framework and examines the way in which the Local Government Act 2000 built upon, and deviated from, the recommendations of the third report of the Committee for Standards in Public Life. Finally it discusses what has happened since the LGA 2000 Act was implemented, and assesses whether the framework is now poised to go down the high road of ethical culture or low road of compliance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-638
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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