Complaints about councillors
Code of Conduct complaints against members process
We have a duty to ensure that our elected members (councillors) and co-opted members (lay people with expertise and experience in various matters who are appointed to sit on committees) maintain high standards of conduct in office. We have therefore adopted a Code of Conduct (pdf) consistent with the seven ‘Nolan’ principles of standards in public life (selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership) which members are expected to observe.
We have arrangements to investigate allegations that members have failed to follow the code and decide what action, if any, should be taken. See our procedure for dealing with complaints (pdf).
How to make a complaint about a councillor
If you think that a member may have breached the code and you’d like to complain, please use the councillor complaints form.
This form is for complaints about councillors only. Please use our general complaints form for complaints about our services or staff.
Please fill in all the details on the complaints form. We will acknowledge your complaint within five working days and keep you informed of progress throughout the process.
On the basis of the information received, we will decide whether your complaint merits formal investigation.
In order to be investigated the complaint must either:
Reveal a continuing pattern of behaviour that is significantly and unreasonably disrupting the business of the council and there is no other way left to deal with it other than by way of an investigation. Or, it must comply with all the following criteria:
- the complaint raises matters which would be a breach of the code
- the complaint is sufficiently serious to warrant investigation
- the complaint is not ‘tit for tat’
- the complaint appears not to be politically motivated
- it is about somebody who is still a member or co-opted member of the council
- the complaint has been received within three months of the alleged failure to comply with the code, unless there are exceptional circumstances for the delay and the delay does not mean that it would be difficult for a fair investigation to be carried out
- the same or similar complaint has not already been investigated
- it is not an anonymous complaint, unless it includes sufficient documentary evidence to show a significant breach of the code
- the member complained about has not already apologised and/or admitted making an error; and
- if the complaint reveals a criminal offence and a complaint has been made to the police, that the police investigation and any proceedings have concluded or the police have confirmed that no proceedings will be issued.
The Monitoring Officer will consult with the Independent Person, an individual otherwise unconnected with the council who is appointed specifically to advise in such matters, and will normally decide whether to investigate within 28 days. They will inform you of their decisions and the reasons for it.
In some cases they may decide to seek to resolve the matter informally. This might, for instance, involve the member agreeing to apologise or to amend their entry in the Register of Interests. Where a complaint relates to the alleged failure of a member or co-opted member to register or declare pecuniary interests (but not other types of interests) the monitoring officer will refer the matter to the police for investigation.
How is the investigation conducted?
If the Monitoring Officer decides that your complaint merits investigation they will either conduct the investigation themselves or appoint an appropriate person to do so on their behalf. The Investigating Officer may need to meet or speak with you to better understand the detail of your complaint. They will inform the member concerned of the complaint against them and ask them to give their explanation of events.
At the end of the investigation, both you and the member will be sent copies of the Investigating Officer's draft report in order to have the opportunity to correct any factual inaccuracies. The Monitoring Officer will then review the report and either write to you to confirm that there is no further action required or arrange for the Audit, Pensions and Standards (Complaints) sub-committee to consider the report.
If the sub-committee considers the report, it will also receive the written opinion of the independent person and any written representations from the member, before deciding whether they have failed to follow the code and, if so, what action should be taken. If the sub-committee decides that a member has failed to comply with the code it may:
- censure the member
- report its findings to a meeting of the council for information
- recommend to the council that the member be issued with a formal censure
- recommend to the member’s group leader that they be removed from any or all of the committees or sub-committees of the council
- recommend to the leader of the council that the member be removed from the cabinet, or removed from particular portfolio responsibilities
As soon as possible after the meeting the monitoring officer will write to you to confirm the decisions taken.
If a member is dissatisfied with the decision of the Audit, Pensions and Standards (Complaints) sub-committee they may appeal within 14 days of the meeting to an Audit, Pensions and Standards (Appeals) sub-committee. The appeals sub-committee will have a different membership to the original sub-committee and can either endorse the previous decision or conclude that there is no breach and dismiss the complaint.
If your complaint is not about a member, please use the council’s complaints procedure.