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How we will deal with your complaint

Staffordshire County Council
Arrangements for dealing with complaints against councillors

The Localism Act 2011 requires all local authorities to adopt their own Code of Conduct for members (and for any co-opted members who have the right to vote in meetings). The Code has to be based on seven principles of public life namely: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.

In addition the Code requires members to declare and publicly register certain financial interests that they may have.  These are called Disclosable Pecuniary Interests.  Failure to declare and register these particular Interests is a criminal offence.

In May 2012 Staffordshire County Council adopted its new Code and in July 2012 approval was given to the addition of the section on Disclosable Pecuniary Interests. The code was most recently updated in December 2019. You can view the full code on our Code of Conduct webpage.

The Localism Act 2011 goes on to require local authorities to have arrangements in place to deal with formal complaints against members. Those arrangements have to include the appointment of an ‘Independent Person’ whose views must be sought by the authority before making a final decision on a complaint and can also be sought at any stage of dealing with a complaint. In addition the member being complained about has a right to consult an Independent Person at any time in the process.

The County Council has appointed four Independent Persons. The Monitoring Officer is required to consult an Independent Person when considering a complaint against a member.

Making a Complaint

Members of the Staffordshire County Council pride themselves in their high standards of behaviour. There may however be occasions when you might consider that a member has breached the Code of Conduct.  In these instances you may complain to the Monitoring Officer who is a senior officer in the authority and has statutory responsibility for maintaining the register of members’ interest and for administering a system for administering complaints against members.

To ensure that all the necessary information is provided with a complaint a standard complaint form has been drawn up. You can access the complaints form here.

Once completed the form should be sent either by e-mail or in the post to: 

John Tradewell
Monitoring Officer
Floor 4
1 Staffordshire Place 
Tipping Street
Stafford
ST16 2LP 

E mail: john.tradewell@staffordshire.gov.uk 

It is important that you provide your contact details so that we can keep you informed of the progress of your complaint. The form includes a section for you to indicate if you don’t want the member you’re complaining about to know who the complainant is. We will ask for your consent if we feel it appropriate to share your details. 

n.b it is usual practice for the Monitoring Officer to personally deal with complaints against Councillors. However, in instances where the Monitoring Officer has had a previous involvement in the circumstances of the complaint (e.g. has advised the member concerned in connection with the reasons for the complaint) then the complaint will be dealt with by the deputy Monitoring Officer. 

Once received your complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the following process: 

First steps

You will be sent an acknowledgement letter or e mail within 5 working days of receipt of your complaint. 

The accused member and their political group leader (as applicable) will be notified of the complaint and provided with a copy of the complaint details. 

Preliminary Assessment 

The Monitoring Officer, in consultation with an Independent Person, will assess your complaint and decide whether it is constitutes a breach of the code of conduct.

If the complaint is deemed to relate to an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct the Monitoring Officer will decide whether or not that breach relates to the declaration or registration of a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest.  (See below for information on complaints not deemed appropriate for consideration). 

Alleged breaches of requirement in connection with Disclosable Pecuniary Interests  

In these instances the Monitoring Officer will consider whether the matter should be referred to Staffordshire Police for investigation.  In making that decision the Monitoring Officer has to decide whether any alleged failure to declare or register an interest was intentional.  He will need to be able to provide sufficient evidence to justify a Police investigation. 

Other alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct

For complaints that are not about Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, the Monitoring officer, in consultation with the Independent Person, will decide whether the allegation warrants detailed consideration and, if so, whether that consideration needs to be by the Monitoring officer or by a Panel of elected members. 

Complaints considered by the Monitoring Officer  

These are complaints for which the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Independent Person, feel that appropriate remedy would be: 

  • a formal apology by the member concerned to the complainant within 14 days of the request to do so,  

  • a requirement for the member to undertake specific training, or both.   

The complainant will be informed of the outcome of the complaint. Where members belong to a political group, the Group leader will be notified of the outcome of the complaint and of any sanctions imposed. 

Complaints considered by a Panel of elected members  

Where the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Independent Person, thinks that it is not appropriate for him/her to deal with the complaint or that more serious sanctions might be appropriate the complaint will be referred to a Panel of elected members. That Panel will be made up of 5 members taken from the full membership of the County Council’s Audit and Standards Committee. Panel meetings will be held within 28 working days of receipt of the complaint. Both the complainant and the member being complained about will be invited to submit evidence for the Panel to consider. 

If necessary the Panel can request additional information from other parties to help them consider the complaint. More serious cases might warrant the commissioning of an investigation Report by either an Officer not directly involved in work with the member concerned or by an independent adviser. 

Decisions of the Panel will be reported to the full Audit and Standards Committee for a formal decision on what action, if any, should be taken. 

If a complaint is upheld:  

The Committee will decide if any of the following sanctions should be imposed: 

  • Formal apology

  • Additional training

  • Formal letter to the member concerned highlighting failings in their conduct

  • Recommendation to full Council on the removal of the member from membership a specific Committee, outside body or position of responsibility 

  • Recommendation to the political Group Leader on the removal of the member from a specific Committee, outside body or position of responsibility

  • Issue of a Press release on the nature of the complaint and the Committee’s decision

  • A recommendation to Full Council that the member be censured.

  • Limit the member’s access to support services and officers.  

If the complaint is not upheld   

No action will be taken against the Councillor concerned. 

The complainant, the member concerned and the Group Leader (if applicable) will be informed of the Committee’s decision. 

Complaints NOT deemed appropriate for consideration 

Complaints that are considered to be vexacious or politically motivated will not be accepted. If for these or other reasons the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Independent Person, does not feel that the complaint should be considered the complainant, the member being complained about and the Group Leader (if applicable) will be notified.  If the complainant is dissatisfied with this decision he/she can request re-consideration by the Monitoring Officer. 

Appeals 

There is no right of appeal against the decision on whether to investigate a complaint or decisions made following investigation. 

If a complainant is unhappy about the way in which their complaint has been administered, complaints can be lodged with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who can be contacted as follows: 

Website: How to Complain - Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Tel: 0300 061 0614

Review of Arrangements 

These Arrangements may be amended by resolution of the full Council.   

For further information on these Arrangements please contact: 

Simon Humble
Governance and Support Manager
E mail simon.humble@staffordshire.gov.uk

Telephone: 01785 278044

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