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When he expects to publish the results of his Department's review of political restrictions on local authority employees.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends shortly to begin a review of the ethical framework relating to local authority employees, which will include a review of political restrictions on employees. We are issuing a consultation paper to local authorities and will publish our conclusions arising from that review later in the year.
If my hon. Friend goes through his Department's files, he will find that I have been raising this matter on and off since 1997. One statement suggested that the matter would be sorted out by Easter 1998, so he will understand why I am pleased by his reply. My constituent, Mr. Ian Scott of Filton, will also be pleased because he was denied the chance to stand for South Gloucestershire council this year and was even asked to resign his parish council position. Can the Minister assure me that the matter will be sorted out before the council elections in 2005?
I recognise and understand my hon. Friend's concerns. The review will begin in April-May this year and will completed by August-September. The Conservative Government introduced the restrictions in an act of political vindictiveness after the Labour party put them under pressure to provide a fair deal. We will proceed on a consensual basis, examine the scope of the restrictions and develop a rational outcome that has the widest possible support.