10. Further guidance and relevant information
A single event may give rise to similar complaints from a number of Complainants. This may relate to one Subject Member or multiple Subject Members. Complaints may relate to the same set of facts.
Where it is logical and appropriate to do so - e.g. multiple complaints relating to the same set of facts against one Subject Member - the complaints will be combined and dealt with as one.
Where possible complaints relating to a single event will be considered by the Assessment Sub-Committee / Hearing Sub-Committee at the same time. Where it isn’t appropriate to combine complaints they will be considered by the Assessment Sub Committee / Hearing Sub-Committee separately.
If an investigation is deemed to be appropriate the Monitoring Officer may determine that, in the interests of efficiency, only one complaint should go forward for investigation, with the other Complainants being treated as potential witnesses in that investigation.
A Complainant may ask to withdraw their complaint before it has been assessed or decided.
In deciding whether to agree to the request the Monitoring Officer will consider:
a) the Complainant’s reasons for withdrawal (e.g. whether there has been undue pressure or an apology given);
b) whether the public interest in taking some action on the complaint outweighs the Complainant’s wish to withdraw it;
c) whether action, such as an investigation, may be taken without the Complainant’s participation.
Confidentiality and anonymous complaints
All information regarding the complaint will remain confidential to the parties involved unless the information is published in accordance with the process detailed in this procedure. The Complainant and Subject Member are expected not to disclose information about the complaint to anyone else unless such publication is in accordance with these rules.
Where the Monitoring Officer is of the opinion that there is very good reason to do so the identity of the Complainant may be kept confidential. Examples may include because there is a serious risk to the Complainant’s personal safety, there are serious health conditions and there are medical risks associated with the identity being disclosed or fear for the consequences of their employment.
The Subject Member under investigation may not immediately be informed of who the Complainant is where it is considered that it may prejudice any investigation.
Save for the exceptionally serious or significant matters, anonymous complaints will not be accepted. An anonymous complaint that is considered to be exceptionally serious or significant will only be considered if it includes documentary or photographic evidence that supports the complaint.
Use of alternative Monitoring Officer
The Monitoring Officer may, at his discretion, refer any complaint to a Monitoring Officer of another authority where it is necessary or expedient to do so. Such examples may include complaints against senior Members.
The Council has two Independent Persons one of whom shall be consulted as part of the consideration of any complaint. Their involvement at the various stages is detailed in the steps outlined above.
Subject Members have the right to consult the Independent Person as part of the complaints process. They will be notified of this as part of the correspondence but can always ask the Monitoring Officer for the relevant contact details.
Where possible the Independent Person giving their views to the Monitoring Officer or Assessment / Hearing Sub-Committees will be different from the one giving views to the Subject Member, although it is acknowledged that this may not always be possible.
Complaints against town or parish councillors
Where there is a complaint against a Member of a town or parish council which results in a finding that they have breached the Code of Conduct, the Clerk of the relevant town or parish council will be notified of the decision.
Neither the Monitoring Officer nor the Hearing Sub-Committee has powers to suspend or disqualify Members or to withdraw members’ or special responsibility allowances.
Available sanctions include:
- Requiring an apology to be given.
- That training be undertaken.
- Censure or reprimand the Member.
- Publish its findings in respect of the Member’s conduct.
- Report its findings to Council (or to the parish council) for information.
- Recommend to the Member’s Group Leader (or in the case of un-grouped councillors, recommend to Council or to Committees) that he/she 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 Cabinet, or removed from particular Portfolio responsibilities.
- Recommend to Council that the Member be replaced as Executive Leader.
- Instruct the Monitoring Officer to (or recommend that the parish council) arrange training for the Member.
- Remove (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).
- 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.
- 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, Committee and Sub-Committee meetings.
Certain of these sanctions are capable of being imposed by the Council, but in relation to complaints about parish and town Members certain of the sanctions can only be recommended to the relevant parish/town council
Neither the Hearings Sub-Committee nor the Monitoring Officer have the power to enforce compliance. If a member fails to comply with any sanction, this may constitute a further breach of the Code of Conduct. While sanctions, such as withdrawing email facilities or preventing access to a building, can be imposed for the purposes of securing the efficient and effective discharge of the Council’s functions, such measures should not interfere with the democratic process nor act as a form of suspension.
Any training requirement imposed in relation to a District Councillor will be funded by the District Council.
While the Council has adopted this procedure, in so doing it is accepting that the Monitoring Officer, the Assessment Sub-Committee or Hearing Sub-Committee may depart from these arrangements where it is considered expedient to do so to secure the effective and fair consideration of any matter.
There is no right of appeal for the Complainant or the Subject Member against a decision of the Assessment Sub-Committee or Hearings Sub-Committee. While the Subject Member can disagree with the Monitoring Officer’s decision on breach and / or sanction and require a Standards Hearing Sub-Committee to be held, this is not available to Complainants.
The Standards Committee shall receive regular updates on complaints (level of complaint, brief detail of complaint, paragraph alleged to be breached, decision and sanctions) and it will also include details of the number that have not progressed as they did not met the Basic Criteria.
Data Protection and document retention
Personal data will be treated in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the relevant privacy notice.
Documents will be retained in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1972 and the Council’s retention schedule.