Complain about the behaviour of a Councillor
A guide to making a complaint about the behaviour of elected, co-opted and independent members of South Kesteven District Council and of any Parish and Town Council in the district of South Kesteven.
This guide explains:
- About the Code of Conduct
- Who you can complain about
- What you can complain about
- What cannot be investigated
- Whether your name will be released
- What information you should provide
- Will your complaint be investigated?
- How is the investigation conducted?
- What happens when an investigation is concluded?
- What action can the Hearings Panel take where it finds a member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct?
- Who are the Hearings Panel and the Independent Person?
- How to make a complaint
About the Code of Conduct
Under the Localism Act, Councillors are required to promote and maintain high standards of conduct. Our Members adopted a new Code of Conduct in July 2012, which can be viewed here:
Each parish and town council within the district has adopted a Code of Conduct which can be viewed by contacting the clerk of each of those councils.
Who you can complain about
You can complain about district councillors and parish and town councillors, and co-opted members. We can only consider complaints about individual councillors or members. We cannot consider complaints about the Authority as a whole or about people employed by it.
Any complaint made in writing alleging that a member of a council has breached the Code of Conduct, which is received by the Monitoring Officer will be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt.
What you can complain about
You can complain about a member failing to comply with any part of the Authority's Code of Conduct. This includes:
- failing to act in a way consistent with the principles for public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership
- failing to disclose interests
What cannot be investigated
An Act of Parliament has set out what can be investigated under this procedure. There are some complaints that cannot be investigated, including:
- complaints that are not in writing
- incidents or actions that are not covered by the Code of Conduct
- incidents that are about a fault in the way the Authority has or has not done something. This is known as maladministration and may be a matter for the
- complaints about people employed by the Authority
- incidents that happened before a member was elected, co-opted or appointed, or after they have stopped being a member
- complaints about the way in which the Authority conducts and records its meetings
Whether your name will be released
If you want to keep your name and address confidential, please indicate this in the space provided in the complaint form, in which case we will not disclose your name and address to the member against whom you made the complaint without your prior consent. Please note that the authority does not investigate anonymous complaints unless there is a clear public interest in doing so.
What information you should provide
It is important that you provide all the information you wish to have taken into account by the Monitoring Officer when they decide whether to take any action on your complaint. For example:
- You should be specific, wherever possible, about exactly what you are alleging the member said or did. For instance, instead of writing that the member insulted you, you should state what it was they said.
- You should provide the dates of the alleged incidents wherever possible. If you cannot provide exact dates it is important to give a general timeframe.
- You should confirm whether there are any witnesses to the alleged conduct and provide their names and contact details if possible.
- You should provide any relevant background information.
Will your complaint be investigated?
- The Monitoring Officer will review your complaint and may consult with the Independent Person to take a decision as to whether it merits formal investigation. This decision will normally be taken within 14 days of receipt of your complaint. When the Monitoring Officer has taken a decision, they will inform you of that decision and the reasons for it.
- Where the Monitoring Officer requires additional information to come to a decision, they may come back to you and ask for that information. They may also request information from the Councillor against whom your complaint is directed. If your complaint relates to a parish or town councillor, the Monitoring Officer may also inform the parish or town council of your complaint and seek the views of the parish council before deciding whether the complaint merits formal investigation.
- In appropriate cases, the Monitoring Officer may seek to resolve the complaint informally without the need for a formal investigation. This might involve the member accepting their conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology or other remedial action. Where the councillor or authority make a reasonable offer of local resolution and you are not willing to accept it, the Monitoring Officer will take account of this in deciding whether the complaint merits formal investigation.
- If your complaint identifies criminal conduct or a breach of other regulations by any person, the Monitoring Officer has the power to call in the police and other regulatory agencies.
How is the investigation conducted?
- If the Monitoring Officer decides that a complaint merits formal investigation, they will appoint an investigating officer, who may be another officer of the authority, an officer of another authority or an external investigator. The investigating officer will decide if they need to speak to you to understand the nature of your complaint. You may also be asked to suggest documents you think the investigating officer needs to see and who they need to interview.
- The investigating officer would normally write to the Councillor against whom the complaint was made, asking them to provide an explanation of events. They will also have the chance to identify documents the investigating officer needs to see, together with who should 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 them until the investigation has progressed sufficiently.
- At the end of the investigation, the investigating officer will produce a draft report and send copies, in confidence, to you and the member concerned to give you both an opportunity to identify any matter with which you disagree or you feel requires more consideration.
- Having received and taken account of any comments you make on the draft report, the investigating officer will send the final report to the monitoring officer.
What happens when an investigation is concluded?
- If the Monitoring Officer concludes that there is no failure to comply with the Code of Conduct, they will write to you and the Councillor concerned advising you of the findings and providing a copy of the investigating officer's final report. If the Monitoring Officer is not satisfied an investigation has been conducted properly, they may ask the investigating officer to reconsider their report.
- If the Monitoring Officer finds there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct, they will either send the matter for local hearing before the Review Board or, after consulting the Independent Person, seek local resolution.
The Monitoring Officer may consider that the matter can reasonably be resolved without the need for a hearing. In such a case, they will consult with the Independent Person and you as the complainant, and try to agree what you would consider a fair resolution that also helps ensure higher standards of conduct in the future. This may include the member accepting their conduct was not acceptable and offering an apology and/or other remedial action by the authority. If the member complies with the suggested resolution, the Monitoring Officer will report the matter to the council (and the parish or town council) for information, but will take no further action. However, if you tell the Monitoring Officer that any suggested resolution would not be adequate, the Monitoring Officer will refer the matter for a local hearing.
If the Monitoring Officer considers that local resolution is not appropriate, you are not satisfied with the proposal for local resolution or the member is not prepared to undertake any proposed remedial action, then the Monitoring Officer will refer the investigating officer's report to the Review Board, which will conduct a local 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.
Before the hearing the member will provide their response to the investigating officer's report. At the hearing the investigating officer will present their report, call witnesses and make representations to substantiate their conclusion that the member has breached the Code of Conduct. The investigating officer might ask you as the complainant to attend the hearing and give evidence. The member will then have the opportunity to give their evidence, call witnesses and make representations to the Review Board as to why they feel that they did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct.
If the Review Board (with advice from the Independent Person) concludes that a member did not fail to comply with the code of conduct, they can dismiss the complaint. If the Review Board finds that the member did fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, the chairman will inform the member of the findings and the Review Board will decide what, if any, action to take. In doing this, the Review will give the member an opportunity to make representations to the Review Board and consult the Independent Person, but will then decide what action to take.
What action can the Review Board take where a member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct?
The Council has delegated to the Review Board powers to take action in respect of individual members as may be necessary to promote and maintain high standards of conduct.
- Censure or reprimand the member
- Publish its findings in respect of the member's conduct
- Report its findings to Council (or to the parish or town council council) for information
- Recommend to the member's Group Leader (or in the case of un-grouped members, recommend to Council or to Committees) that they be removed from any or all committees or sub-committees of the Council
- Recommend to the Leader of the Council that the member be removed from the Executive, or removed from particular Portfolio responsibilities
- Recommend to Council that the member be replaced as Executive Group Leader
- Instruct the Monitoring Officer to (or recommend that the parish or town Council) arrange training for the member
- Remove (or recommend to the parish or town council that the member be removed) from all outside appointments to which they are nominated by the authority (or by the parish or town council)
- Withdraw (or recommend to the parish or town council that it withdraws) facilities provided to the member by the Council, such as a computer, website and/or e-mail and internet access
- Exclude (or recommend that the parish or town council exclude) the member from the Council's offices or other premises, with the exception of meeting rooms as necessary for attending council, committee and sub-committee meetings
In respect of complaints made against parish and town councillors, the Review Board can only make recommendations to the town or parish council to which the member belongs.
Who are the Review Board and the Independent Person
The Review Board is established in the Council's constitution and comprises three members of the Licensing Committee.
The appointment of an Independent Person was a requirement of the Localism Act. An advert was placed to identify an Independent Person and a deputy. At its meeting on 12 July 2012, Mr Fred Mann, was appointed as the Council's Independent Person and the Venerable Tim Barker was appointed as the Deputy Independent Person.
How to make a complaint
You can submit your complaint by using an online Councillor complaint form. If you want to post the form to us, please print a copy of the e-form and send it to the Monitoring Officer at the address below.
You may also write a letter to accompany your complaint that covers all the points in the form. Please send any documents that support your complaint with your form and / or letter.
If you cannot write your complaint in English, we can arrange to have it translated for you.
Do you need more help?
We hope this guidance has answered all your questions about making a complaint.
If however you have any more questions, you can contact us at:
Telephone: 01476 406080
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