Councillors' conduct

Everyone expects good standards of behaviour from those they elect to represent them. To support that, Forest Heath District Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the Shadow Council and all towns and parishes have adopted a code of conduct to govern the way we expect councillors to behave.

Forest Heath District Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and the Shadow Council are responsible for upholding high standards of governance within its area, and considering complaints against that individual district, town and parish councillors have breached the Council's Code of Conduct.

Most complaints are considered and dealt with by the council's Monitoring Officer. However, more serious matters may be referred to the Standards Committee. The Standards Committee is appointed to:

  • promote and maintain high standards of conduct by councillors and co-opted members
  • assist councillors and co-opted members to observe the Councillors' Code of Conduct
  • advise the councils on the adoption and revision of the Councilors' Code of Conduct
  • monitor the operation of the Councillors' Code of Conduct
  • advise, train or arrange to train councillors and co-opted members on matters relating to the Councillors' Code of Conduct.

Please be aware that Forest Heath District Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and the Shadow Council cannot deal with complaints about the actions or decisions of a parish or town council as a whole, or a parish or town clerk. All such complaints need to be referred to the relevant parish or town council.

Further, Forest Heath District Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and the Shadow Council can only consider complaints when councillors were deemed to be 'actingly in capacity' as a councillor - we cannot deal with more general complaints about the private lives of councillors.

Making a complaint about a councillor

You can make a complaint about a councillor if you believe they have broken any part of the code of conduct, this could be:

  • failing to treat people with respect
  • causing the local authority to breach equality laws
  • revealing information that was given to them in confidence
  • stopping someone getting information they are entitled to by law
  • damaging the reputation of their office or authority
  • using their position improperly, to their own or someone else's advantage or disadvantage
  • misusing the authority's resources
  • allowing the authority's resources to be misused for the activities of a registered political party
  • failing to reveal an interest at a meeting
  • compromising the impartiality of officers
  • taking part in a meeting or making a decision where the member has an interest

All complaints will need to be in writing. However, if you request that your details remain confidential, this will be considered. We do not accept anonymous complaints. All complaints should be addressed to the Monitoring Officer. We have prepared an online code of conduct complaints form that you can complete if you want to make a complaint. You must state within your complaint which part of the code of conduct you believe they have breached.

What will happen to my complaint?

Your complaint will be considered by the Monitoring Officer, who may ask for further information from you. They will then ask the subject of the complaint for their views on the matter. Once received, then the Monitoring Officer will ask an independent person - appointed to provide an objective view on the complaint for their views. Most complaints will be resolved at that stage - either because there was no issue, or because it can be resolved in a straightforward manner - for example, the councillor should apologies.

If it is a more complex matter, then an investigation may be undertaken. The Monitoring Officer can also elect to refer complaints to the Standards Committee to reach a decision on.

What can be done about complaint?

In most cases, complaints can be readily resolved by discussion between those affected, or sometimes by way of apology. In more complex cases, we may consider options such as mediation to resolve disputes between people.

We can also suggest training, where there is a clear gap in knowledge/groups, or suggest changes to appointments, issue a written notice, or a public notice regarding any incidents. However, we cannot suspend or remove councillors - councillors are elected by their electors and are, in effect, accountable to the ballot box.