Complaint about a Councillor - Code of Conduct for District & Parish Councillors

Context

This procedure explains how you can make a complaint against a Council member. All Councillors are required to comply with a Councillor Code of Conduct. The Bassetlaw Code of Conduct is available from reception and from the District Council’s website. However Town and Parish Councils may either adopt the Bassetlaw Code or one of their own which will be available direct from the relevant Town/ Parish Council on request. If you wish to complain that a Member has not complied with the code then this procedure sets out how the Council will deal with your complaint.

Under the Localism Act 2011, the Council must have in place a procedure by which allegations can be investigated and a decision made on such allegations.

The Localism Act also requires the Council to appoint at least one Independent person. The Independent Person’s views must be sought by the Council before making a decision on an allegation which it has decided should be investigated. The Council may also seek the views of the Independent Person at any other stage of the procedure. The views of the Independent Person may also be sought, at any stage of the procedure, by a Member against whom a complaint has been made.

Parish Councils

References to Council Members in the procedure mean also co-opted Members and to Members or co-opted Members of a Parish Council within the Bassetlaw District. The procedure applies to complaints made about those members and each Parish Council is required to adopt a Code of Conduct.

How to make a complaint

As the Council’s Monitoring Officer is currently unavailable arrangements have been made with West Lindsey Council to undertake the role of Monitoring Officer on behalf of Bassetlaw District Council. Details of who to contact are available on our procedure for dealing with complaints against Councillors page.

The Monitoring Officer is a senior officer of the Council. The Monitoring Officer has legal responsibility for maintaining the register of members’ interests and is responsible for administering the Code of Conduct for Councillors and for investigating complaints against Council Members.

Please provide us with your name and a contact address or email address. We can then acknowledge receipt of your complaint and keep you informed of its progress. If there is a reason why you may need to keep your name and address confidential, please indicate this on your correspondence. The Monitoring Officer will consider your request and may, in exceptional circumstances, agree not to disclose your name and address to the Member against whom you make the complaint, without your prior consent.

The Council will not usually investigate complaints made anonymously, unless there is a clear public interest in doing so.

The Monitoring Officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within three working days of receiving it, and will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint as appropriate.

The Monitoring Officer will normally write to the Member informing them that a complaint has been received from you (unless a request to withhold this information has been granted) together with the nature of the complaint. The Member will be advised not to contact you.

Will your complaint be investigated?

The Monitoring Officer will review each complaint received. The Monitoring Officer may consult with the Independent Person before taking a decision as to whether the complaint:

  • Merits no further action
  • Whether to attempt informal resolution
  • Merits formal investigation
  • Should be referred to the Standards Sub-Committee

This decision will normally be taken within 28 working days of receipt of your complaint. Initially the Monitoring Officer will validate the complaint by subjecting it to the Initial Intake Test and Assessment Test. If the complaint fails the Initial Intake Test it will not be considered further and you and the Member will be informed of this. If the complaint fails the subsequent Assessment Test it will not be considered further and you and the member will be informed of this. The Monitoring Officer may seek the views of the Independent Person when applying the Assessment Test.

Where the Monitoring Officer has taken a decision, you will be informed of that decision and the reasons for it. Where the Monitoring Officer requires additional information in order to come to this decision, they may request such further information from you. The Monitoring Officer may also request information from the Member against whom your complaint is directed. Having considered the Assessment Test, the Monitoring Officer may deem that the complaint is valid. In appropriate cases the Monitoring Officer may, in consultation with the Independent Person, seek to resolve the complaint informally, without the need for a formal investigation. Informal resolution may involve the Member agreeing that their conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology, or agreeing to other remedial action by the Council. Where the Member or the Council make a reasonable offer of informal resolution, but you are not willing to accept the offer, the Monitoring Officer will take account of this in deciding whether the complaint should be investigated further.

If your complaint identifies criminal conduct or breach of other regulation by any person, the Monitoring Officer will inform you of this and may notify the Police or other regulatory agencies.

How is the investigation conducted?

The Council has adopted a procedure for the investigation of complaints against Members.

If the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Independent Person decides that a complaint merits further investigation, they may appoint an Investigating Officer. If the nature of the complaint is relatively straightforward then the Investigating Officer may be another senior council officer or an officer or Independent Person of another authority. If the complaint is more complex and/or contentious then a suitably qualified and experienced external investigator will be appointed in accordance with the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules and procurement of such services. The Investigating Officer or Monitoring Officer will decide whether they need to meet you or speak to you. This may help them to understand the nature of your complaint, enable you to explain your understanding of events and suggest what documents need to be seen, and who needs to be interviewed.

The Investigating Officer or Monitoring Officer will normally write to the Member against whom you have complained. They will provide the Member with a copy of your complaint. They will ask the member to provide their view of events, and to identify any documents that may need to be seen and who may need to be interviewed. In exceptional cases, where it is appropriate to keep your identity confidential or disclosure of details of the complaint to the member might prejudice the investigation, the Monitoring Officer can delete your name and address from the papers given to the member, or delay notifying the Member until the investigation has progressed sufficiently.

At the end of their investigation, the Investigating Officer or Monitoring Officer will produce a draft report (“the Investigation Report”). They will send copies of that draft report, in confidence, to you and to the Member concerned. This will give you both an opportunity to identify any matter in the draft report which you disagree with or which you consider requires more consideration.

Having received and taken account of any comments which you and the Member may make on the draft Investigation Report the Monitoring Officer or Investigating Officer will prepare a final report. Where an Investigating Officer has been appointed then the Investigating Officer will send their final report to the Monitoring Officer.

What happens if the Investigating Officer or Monitoring Officer concludes that there is no evidence of a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct?

If an Investigating Officer has been appointed the Monitoring Officer will review the Investigating Officer’s report and, if satisfied that the Investigating Officer’s report is sufficient to show no evidence of failure to comply with the code of conduct, the Monitoring Officer will write to you and to the Member concerned (and to the Parish Council, where your complaint relates to a Parish Councillor), notifying you that they are satisfied that no further action is required. You will both receive a copy of the Investigation Final Report.

Where an Investigating Officer has been appointed and Monitoring Officer is not satisfied that the investigation has been conducted properly, the Monitoring Officer may ask the Investigating Officer to reconsider their report.

Before taking either of those steps the Monitoring Officer may consult with the Independent Person.

What happens if the Investigating Officer or Monitoring Officer concludes that there is evidence of a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct?

If an Investigating Officer has been appointed, the Monitoring Officer will review the Investigating Officer’s report. Where the report demonstrates evidence of failure to comply with the code of conduct the Monitoring Officer will then either send the matter for a hearing before a Standards Sub-Committee or in consultation with the Independent Person seek an informal resolution.

Informal Resolution

The Monitoring Officer may consider that the matter can be resolved without the need for a hearing. In such a case, the Monitoring Officer will consult with the Independent Person and with you as complainant and seek to agree what you may consider to be a fair resolution which also helps to ensure higher standards of conduct for the future. Such resolution may include the Member accepting that their conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology, and/or agreeing to other remedial action by the Council. If the member complies with the suggested resolution, the Monitoring Officer will take no further action, other than reporting the matter to the Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee (and the Parish Council) for information.

Hearing

If the Monitoring Officer considers that informal resolution is not appropriate, or the Member concerned does not agree that the proposed remedial action is appropriate such as giving an apology, then the Monitoring Officer will refer the Investigation Report to a Standards Sub-Committee which will conduct a hearing before deciding whether the member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct and, if so, whether to take any action in respect of the member. The Council has agreed a procedure for hearing complaints. Once the Monitoring Officer has submitted the Investigation Report to the Standards Sub-Committee you and the member will not be able to introduce any further points of complaint or evidence without the consent of the Sub-Committee.

Before taking either of the above steps the Monitoring Officer may first consult the Independent Person.

What action can the Standards Sub-Committee take where a member has failed to comply with the code of conduct?

The Council has delegated powers to the Audit & Risk Committee to take charge of standards and Code of Conduct. Further, the Council has delegated powers to the Standards sub-committee to take action in respect of individual members.

View the responsibilities and powers.

What happens at the end of the hearing?

At the end of the hearing, the Chair will state the decision of the Standards Sub-Committee as to whether the member failed to comply with the Code of Conduct and as to any actions which the Sub-Committee resolves to take.

As soon as reasonably practicable thereafter, the Monitoring Officer shall prepare a formal decision notice in consultation with the Chair of the Sub-Committee, and send a copy to you, to the Member (and to the Parish Council if applicable). The decision notice will be available for public inspection and will be reported to the next convenient meeting of the Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee.

What is the Standards Sub-Committee?

What are the Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee and Standards Sub-Committee?

The Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee comprises of nine Councillors of the Council appointed on the nomination of party group leaders in proportion to the strengths of each party group on the Council (i.e. politically balanced). Substitutes are allowed on this committee however substitute members must be fully trained if they are to participate as a member of the Standards Sub-Committee. A member of Cabinet may also therefore be a member of the Standards Sub-Committee but may not act as a substitute on the main committee.

The Standards Sub-Committee will comprise three Councillors serving on the Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee (unless acting as a substitute as defined). If the complaint concerns a member of a Parish Council, a District Councillor who is also a serving Parish Councillor and either a member of the Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee or a substitute will also be invited to attend the Sub-Committee. The Independent Person is invited to attend all meetings of the Audit and Risk Scrutiny Committee and Standards Sub-Committee. In relation to the Sub-Committee, their views are sought and taken into consideration before the Sub-Committee takes any decision on whether the member’s conduct constitutes a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct and as to any action to be taken following a finding of failure to comply with the Code of Conduct.

Who is the Independent Person?

The Independent Person is a person who has applied for the post following advertisement of a vacancy for the post, and is appointed by a positive vote from a majority of all the members of Council.

A person cannot be “independent” if he/she:

  • Is, or has been within the past 5 years, a member, co-opted member or officer of the authority;
  • (Is or has been within the past 5 years, a member, co-opted member or officer of a parish council within the authority’s area), or
  • Is a relative or close friend, of a person within both paragraphs above.

For this purpose, a “relative” means:

    1. Spouse or civil partner;
    2. Living with the other person as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners;
    3. Grandparent of the other person;
    4. A lineal descendent of a grandparent of the other person;
    5. A parent, sibling or child of a person within paragraphs a) or b); or
    6. A spouse or civil partner of a person within paragraphs c), d) or e); or
    7. Living with a person within paragraphs c), d) or e) as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners.

Independent Members of the Council’s former Standards Committee cannot become an “Independent Person”.

Can this procedure be changed?

The Council will keep under review the Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure and may agree (by resolution) to amend these arrangements. The Council has delegated to the Chair of the Sub-Committee the right to depart from these arrangements where the Chair considers that it is expedient to do so in order to secure the effective and fair consideration of any matter put before them.

Can I challenge decisions made under this procedure?

There are no rights of review of decisions taken under the procedure, other than the right to challenge the process by way of Judicial Review or referral to the Local Government Ombudsman if appropriate.

 

 


Last Updated on Tuesday, October 20, 2020