Complaints of Councillor misconduct

Complaints procedure

If you have any questions or difficulties filling in the form, or you are in need of any support in completing it, please contact the Monitoring Officer via the Democratic and Elections Team on 01295 221534.

1. Context

These “Arrangements” set out how you may make a complaint that an elected or co-opted member of this authority [or of a parish council within its area] has failed to comply with the authority’s Code of Conduct, and sets out how the authority will deal with allegations of a failure to comply with the authority’s Code of Conduct.

Under the Localism Act 2011, the Council must have in place “arrangements” under which allegations that a member or co-opted member of the authority [or of a parish council within the authority’s area], or of a Committee or Sub-Committee of the authority, has failed to comply with that authority’s Code of Conduct can be investigated and decisions made on such allegations.

Such arrangements must provide for the authority to appoint at least one Independent Person, whose views must be sought by the authority before it takes a decision on an allegation which it has decided shall be investigated, and whose views can be sought by the authority at any other stage, or by a member [or a member or co-opted member of a parish council] against whom an allegation has been made. 

2. The Code of Conduct

The Council has adopted a Code of Conduct for Members.

Each parish council is also required to adopt a Code of Conduct. If you wish to inspect a Parish Council’s Code of Conduct, you should inspect any website operated by the parish council or request the parish clerk to allow you to inspect the parish council’s Code of Conduct.

3. Making a complaint

Make a complaint online

If you prefer you can send your complaint via email standards.monitoringofficer@cherwell-dc.gov.uk or write to:

Monitoring Officer
Cherwell District Council
Bodicote House
Bodicote
Banbury Oxon OX15 4AA

If you have any questions or difficulties filling in the form, or you are in need of any support in completing it, please contact the Monitoring Officer via the Democratic & Elections Team on 01295 221534.

The Monitoring Officer is a senior officer of the authority who has statutory responsibility for maintaining the register of members’ interests and who is responsible for administering the system in respect of complaints of member misconduct.

In order to ensure that we have all the information which we need to be able to process your complaint, please clearly identify the Councillor or Councillors you are complaining about and the paragraph(s) of the Code which you allege have been breached.

Please provide us with your name and a contact address or email address, so that we can acknowledge receipt of your complaint and keep you informed of its progress. If you want to keep your name and address confidential, please indicate this, in which case we will not disclose your name and address to the member against whom you make the complaint, without your prior consent.

The authority does not normally investigate anonymous complaints, unless there is a clear public interest in doing so.

The Monitoring Officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, and will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint.

4. Will your complaint be investigated?

The Monitoring Officer will review every complaint received and, after consultation with the Independent Person, will take a decision as to whether it merits formal investigation. Where the Monitoring Officer has taken a decision, he/she will inform you of his/her decision and the reasons for that decision.

Where he/she requires additional information in order to come to a decision, he/she may come back to you for such information, and may request information from the member against whom your complaint is directed. [Where your complaint relates to a Parish Councillor, the Monitoring Officer may also inform the Parish 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. Such informal resolution may involve the member accepting that his/her conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology, or other remedial action by the authority. Where the member or the authority make a reasonable offer of local resolution, but you are not willing to accept that offer, the Monitoring Officer will take account of this in deciding whether the complaint merits formal investigation.

If your complaint identifies criminal conduct or breach of other regulation by any person, the Monitoring Officer has the power to call in the Police and other regulatory agencies.

5. How is the investigation conducted?

If the Monitoring Officer decides that a complaint merits formal investigation, he/she will appoint an Investigating Officer, who may be another senior officer of the authority, an officer of another authority or an external investigator. The Investigating Officer will decide whether he/she needs to meet or speak to you to understand the nature of your complaint and so that you can explain your understanding of events and suggest what documents the Investigating Officer needs to see, and who the Investigating Officer needs to interview.

The Investigating Officer would normally write to the member against whom you have complained and provide him/her with a copy of your complaint, and ask the member to provide his/her explanation of events, and to identify what documents he needs to see and who he needs to interview. 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 his/her investigation, the Investigating Officer will produce a draft report and will send copies of that draft report, in confidence, to you and to the member concerned, to give you both an opportunity to identify any matter in that draft report which you disagree with or which you consider requires more consideration.

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

The Monitoring Officer will review the Investigating Officer’s report and after consulting with the Independent Person, if he/she is satisfied that the Investigating Officer’s report is sufficient, 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 he is satisfied that no further action is required, and give you both a copy of the Investigating Officer’s final report. If the Monitoring Officer is not satisfied that the investigation has been conducted properly, he may ask the Investigating Officer to reconsider his/her report.

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

The Monitoring Officer will review the Investigating Officer’s report and will then either send the matter for hearing before the Standards Committee or, after consulting the Independent Person, seek local resolution

7.1  Local resolution

The Monitoring Officer may consider that the matter can reasonably be resolved without the need for a hearing. In such a case, he/she will consult with the Independent Person and with you as complainant and seek to agree what you 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 his/her conduct was unacceptable 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 Standards Committee [and the Parish 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 hearing.

7.2 Hearing

If the Monitoring Officer considers that local resolution is not appropriate, or you are not satisfied by the proposed resolution, or the member concerned is not prepared to undertake any proposed remedial action, such as giving an apology, then the Monitoring Officer will report the Investigating Officer’s report to the Standards 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 Monitoring Officer may conduct a “pre-hearing process”, requiring the member to give his/her response to the Investigating Officer’s report, in order to identify what is likely to be agreed and what is likely to be in contention at the hearing, and the Chairman of the Committee may issue directions as to the manner in which the hearing will be conducted. At the hearing, the Investigating Officer will present his/her report, call such witnesses as he/she considers necessary and make representations to substantiate his/her conclusion that the member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct. For this purpose, the Investigating Officer may ask you as the complainant to attend and give evidence to the Committee. The member will then have an opportunity to give his/her evidence, to call witnesses and to make representations to the Committee as to why he/she considers that he/she did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct.

The Committee, with the benefit of any advice from the Independent Person, may conclude that the member did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, and so dismiss the complaint. If the Committee concludes that the member did fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, the Chairman will inform the member of this finding and the Committee will then consider what action, if any, it should take as a result of the member’s failure to comply with the Code of Conduct. In doing this, the Committee will give the member an opportunity to make representations to it and will consult the Independent Person, but will then decide what action, if any, to take in respect of the matter.

8. What action can the Standards Committee take where a member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Council has delegated to the Committee such of its powers to take action in respect of individual members as may be necessary to promote and maintain high standards of conduct. Accordingly the Committee may:

  • 8.1 Censure or reprimand the member;
  • 8.2 Publish its findings in respect of the member’s conduct;
  • 8.3 Report its findings to the Council [or to the parish Council] for information;
  • 8.4 Recommend to the member’s Group Leader ( or in the case of un- grouped members, recommend to the Council or to Committees) that he/she be removed from any or all Committees or Sub-Committees of the Council;
  • 8.5 Recommend to the Leader of the Council that the member be removed from the Cabinet, or removed from particular Portfolio responsibilities;
  • 8.6 Recommend to Council that the member be replaced as Leader;
  • 8.7 Instruct the Monitoring Officer to [or recommend that the Parish Council] arrange training for the member;
  • 8.8 Recommend to Council or the Council Leader [or recommend to the Parish Council] that the member be removed from all outside appointments to which he/she has been appointed or nominated by the authority [or by the Parish Council];
  • 8.9 Withdraw [or recommend to the Parish Council that it withdraws] facilities provided to the member by the Council, such as a computer, website and/or email and internet access; or
  • 8.10 Exclude [or recommend that the Parish Council exclude] the member from the Council’s offices or other premises, with the exception of meeting rooms as necessary for attending Council, Executive, Committee and Sub-Committee meetings.

The Committee has no power to suspend or disqualify the member or to withdraw members’ or special responsibility allowances.

9. What happens at the end of the hearing?

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

As soon as reasonably practicable thereafter, the Monitoring Officer shall prepare a formal decision notice in consultation with the Committee Chairman, and send a copy to you, to the member [and to the Parish Council], make that decision notice available for public inspection and report the decision to the next convenient meeting of the Council.

10. Who are the Committee?

The Standards Committee comprises eight Councillors of the District Council appointed on the nomination of party group leaders in proportion to the strengths of each party group on the Council. It may also co-opt non-voting representatives from Town and Parish Councils.

The Independent Person is invited to attend all meetings of the Committee and his views are sought and taken into consideration before it 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.

11. 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 then appointed by a positive vote from a majority of all the members of Council.

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

  • 11.1 Is, or has been within the past 5 years, a member, co-opted member or officer of the authority;
  • 11.2 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 
  • 11.3 Is a relative, or close friend, of a person within paragraph 11.1 or 11.2 above. For this purpose, “relative” means: 
    • 11.3.1 Spouse or civil partner; 
    • 11.3.2 Living with the other person as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners;
    • 11.3.3 Grandparent of the other person;
    • 11.3.4 A lineal descendent of a grandparent of the other person;
    • 11.3.5 A parent, sibling or child of a person within paragraphs 11.3.1 or 11.3.2;
    • 11.3.6 A spouse or civil partner of a person within paragraphs 11.3.3, 11.3.4 or 11.3.5; or 
    • 11.3.7 Living with a person within paragraphs 11.3.3, 11.3.4 or 11.3.5 as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners.

12. Appeals

There is no right of appeal for you as complainant or for the member against a decision of the Monitoring Officer or of the Standards Committee.

If you feel that the authority has failed to deal with your complaint properly, you may make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.