Democracy - Complaints Against Councillors

Complaints Against Councillors

What is code of Conduct?

By Statute, all members are required to sign up to a Code of Conduct following their election to office. The most recent Code which Members have agreed and signed up to was introduced in accordance with the Localism Act 2011. It provides the rules and requirements against which Members are obligated to comply. The issues are around Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, Non-Pecuniary Interests and other Interests. It can be a criminal offence to fail to register interests or to attend a meeting and vote on a matter which is affected by such an interest.

What happens if a complaint is made about a Member?

Complaints about the conduct of any Member and failure to adhere to any of the provisions in the Code may be made by anyone. These should be made via the link to an online councillor complaints form. Once received, they will be initially assessed by the Council's Monitoring Officer who will determine whether the complaint should be investigated.

What is the process followed for a complaint?

Following a complaint being received, the Monitoring Officer will consider the complaint to establish if there is any breach of the Code which may have been identified. If the Monitoring Officer considers that s/he can resolve the complaint through informal mediation or discussion, s/he may take this step before determining whether a complaint should be investigated. In making his/her decision, the Monitoring Officer will consult with the Council's Independent Person (or where it has more than one Independent Person, one of the Independent Persons).

If the matter is considered to be a criminal offence then the Monitoring Office will be asked to prepare a file or papers for referral to the Police.

More information on the process can be found in the Constitution.

Who are the Independent Persons?

The Council has decided to appoint a total of three independent persons as well as an additional person to act as a substitute if needed. These people are appointed by the Council following a formal application and interview process. They have a number of roles including providing advice to the Council on all matters related to the Code, assisting in taking decisions on the seriousness of complaints, assisting in the decision on how these are resolved and also consulting with Members about whom the complaints are made.

What powers or measures exist to deal with breaches?

Any breach of the provisions of the Code of Conduct can be resolved by any one of a number of sanctions or a combination of them. These sanctions are not exhaustive but could include the following:

• Report on the findings to Ordinary Council (or to Parish Council) for information.
• Recommending to Ordinary Council that the Members be issued with a formal censure or reprimand.
• Recommending through the Group Leader or Ordinary Council that the Member be removed from any or all Committees or Sub Committees of the Council.
• Instructing the Monitoring Officer to arrange appropriate training for the Member.
• Removing the Member (or recommending to the Parish Council that they be removed) from all outside appointments to which he/she has been appointed or nominated.
• Withdrawing (or recommending that the Parish Council withdraws) facilities such as a computer, web access, email or intranet access.
• Excluding (or recommending that the Parish Council excludes) them from meetings save for the need to allow them to represent their Ward/Parish.

What are Criminal Matters?

Under Section 34(I) of the Localism Act 2011 an offence is committed if a Member fails to notify the Council of relevant Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or other interest as described in the act or participates in a debate and votes on a matter disclosing relevant interests. Such action carries with it not only the prospect of criminal prosecution but also reputational to the Council and also the prospect of challenge to the decision making process.

N.B Reference to the Mayor shall include the Deputy Mayor and reference to the Party Leader shall include the Deputy Party Leader.