Ethical standards in a time of crisis

Source: GOV.UK Professor Mark Philp, Posted on: 4 May 2020 

Professor Mark Philp, Chair of the Committee’s Research Advisory Board, blogs in an independent capacity on the importance of the Seven Principles in a time of crisis.

The seven (Nolan) principles of public life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership – were designed intentionally to apply  to all types of public office ( recognizing that they would need different interpretations, for example, for the security services than for those working  in the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport). They were also thought to be applicable to all levels of the public service, although the focus of attention tends to be those in senior public office.

Nonetheless, when the Committee talks to public officials and those serving the public, most people recognize that these are principles that apply to them, and they are conscious, or in discussion can recognize, that all the principles apply to them.  Even with respect to the principle of leadership, people in lower level roles can see that how they behave will send signals to their colleagues about how they should act. And people can see that their showing leadership in and setting high standards for their conduct is also important to those members of the public with whom they interact. On this view, we might say that everyone in public service plays a part in setting the tone for how colleagues behave, and that doing so can profoundly affect the way that the public responds to them.

That is part of what a public service ethos is fundamentally about. And when people do not act in accordance with such an ethos, the quality of public services and of the public’s experience of them can be badly damaged.

In a crisis this comes to matter hugely. Most people take their cues as to how to react from those around them. Demonstrating leadership and the capacity to project authority can help coordinate activity and help set people’s expectations, both of others and of themselves. That is good news – and it shows how important an awareness of the principles is for those taking such roles in public office.

Nevertheless, there are difficulties…

Read the full piece at source: Ethical standards in a time of crisis

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