Guide for complainants (Broadland)
You are receiving this guide as you have raised a complaint that a Broadland Parish or District Councillor has either:
- Failed to declare a pecuniary interest in a matter OR
- Breached the Code of Conduct
What happens next?
Details of your complaint and your name will be provided to the subject of the complaint to provide their perspectives and any supporting evidence they have. The subject has until 28 days after we receive your complaint to respond.
Once both sides of the complaint have been assessed, it will be reviewed by the Monitoring Officer at Broadland District Council. The Monitoring Officer will determine how to progress your complaint, in conjunction with an Independent Person. The Independent Person is not a councillor or employee of Broadland District Council and their role is to provide an impartial perspective on the issue.
Failures to declare a pecuniary interest in a matter
In the first instance, the Monitoring Officer will refer these issues to the Police, as it is a prosecutable offence. It may be the case that the Police decide to take no action, in which case the complaint would be treated in the same manner as breaches of the Council’s Code of Conduct.
Reviewing breaches of the Code of Conduct
In the first instance, your complaint will be referred to the subject in order that they may provide an initial response.
The Monitoring Officer and Independent Person will then consider the complaint and the subject’s response. They will follow set criteria to determine the next course of action. For example:
- Is the matter serious enough to warrant the time / expense of further investigation?
- Is the complaint politically motivated, malicious, vexatious, or an abuse of the process?
- Is the complaint related to the decision of a body, rather than the conduct of a member?
- Was it so long ago there would be little benefit in taking action now?
- Is the authority empowered to do anything about the issue (including issuing sanctions)?
- Was the Councillor acting on advice of an officer or the Independent Person when the breach occurred?
- Was the issue due to lack of experience or training on the part of the member?
- Are there any other ongoing issues in relation to the subject of the complaint?
In some cases, they may decide that no other action is needed – for example, if there is a dispute between you and the Councillor, and the Councillor subsequently apologises, that may be the end of the matter.
In other cases, other action may be required without need for an investigation. This may apply where there is a clear training need on the part of the Councillor, or where an investigation is unlikely to resolve the underlying issues, mediation may be more appropriate.
In some cases, an investigation may be required. If the complaint relates to a parish councillor, depending on the nature of the allegation, in the first instance we may consult with the parish as to whether they wish to undertake the investigation themselves. The Parish Council will progress the issue from this stage, subject to consultation with the Monitoring Officer and Independent Person. If this is the case, then you will need to liaise with the Parish Clerk with any future queries.
Where the parish does not wish to investigate, or the complaint relates to a District Councillor, the Monitoring Officer will appoint an investigator.
During the investigation, the investigator may wish to speak to you and any other witnesses you have and obtain any evidence from you. The investigator will seek to clarify facts and statements with you at the time; however, it is up to the investigator to determine the content and findings in the final report. You will be sent a copy of the final report.
The Monitoring Officer and Independent Person will then review the report and decide further action. If the investigation has concluded there has been no breach of the Code of Conduct, it is likely this will not progress further. If the report concludes there has been a breach, a meeting of the Standards Committee will be held, or other action could be taken at this stage.
Frequently Asked Questions
What If I am not satisfied with the outcomes?
There are various stages where you have the right to appeal to the Chairman of the Standards Committee – in particular:
- If the Monitoring Officer and Independent Person initially review the complaint and determine no further action is required;
- If the investigator determines there has been no breach of the Code, and the Monitoring Officer and Independent Person are in agreement this is the case;
- If the investigator finds there has been a breach of the Code, but this is resolved locally by the Monitoring Officer
However, all decisions of the Standards Committee are final.
Does my complaint have to be referred to the subject member?
The Monitoring Officer will consider whether you are likely to suffer harm or victimisation as a result. However, if this is the case, then the matter may be better resolved by law enforcement authorities rather than using the complaints process.
Referral to the subject member may allow for a quicker and more effective solution to the issue than a full investigation in the first instance. It also allows them to present any information they have so the Monitoring Officer and Independent Person can view all sides of the issue before deciding the appropriate action to take.
If I am complaining about Councillor behaviour at a meeting, will the outcomes affect a decision made at the meeting?
Not necessarily. A decision of a committee is not invalid just because a member has breached the Code of Conduct.
Do I have the right to influence the action taken or the process of the investigation?
No. The decisions of the Monitoring Officer and Independent Person may be subject to appeal to the Standards Committee Chairman, as above, but otherwise their decisions are final.