Over the past decade Spinwatch and Unlock Democracy have campaigned around the issue of lobbying: what we see as the growing influence of private interests on public decision-making in the UK and the impact that this is having on levels of public trust in government.
Our concerns apply as much to local government as they do to Westminster or Holyrood. The same issues – the influence of commercial lobbyists on decision-making, the so-called revolving door between public and private sectors, and the lack of transparency and public scrutiny over who is lobbying whom and for what – are having a detrimental impact at local council level too.
We know from our work that these are not new, but rather longstanding issues, which are likely to receive further media attention. The problems are exacerbated by local councillors becoming too cosy with developers now have national significance, the lack of affordable housing being the most pressing.
The issue of lobbying by the property industry is central to the Committee on Standards in Public Life's inquiry into local government ethical standards. The focus too often is exclusively on the registration of pecuniary interests and while this undoubtedly important and should be done better, we believe that the potential for conflicts of interest and the impact that this has on trust in public life is equally important. We welcome the opportunity to give evidence.