Councillor code of conduct and standards
Last Updated: 15 March 2021
We have a duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by councillors. The Code of Conduct sets out the standards that members are expected to observe.
Individual members must comply with the Code of Conduct and any other legal obligations which may apply to them from time to time. Action can be taken against them if they don't.
The Code of Conduct is consistent with the seven general principles of conduct:
The Code of Conduct provides details of the types of financial or other interests that they may need to declare. The Code of Conduct also includes details of how to register these interests.
A breach of the code may lead to a complaint being made under our standards arrangements.
Register of members' interests
Our 'Councillor's register of the interests' records interests declared by members and co-optees. Councillors have to keep this up-to-date and declare any changes.
Our standards committee was set up as a result of the Localism Act 2011. Although there is no statutory requirement for us to have a standards committee, we have set one up which will deal with standards issues and case work.
The role of the committee is to monitor and assist us to promote and maintain high standards of conduct and to advise both district and parish councillors about the operation of the codes of conduct.
The codes of conduct seek to ensure that councillors are open, fair and transparent in the conduct of their official duties. That councillors respect others in the conduct of their public lives and ensure that any decision making on behalf of their council is properly carried out.
The committee is made up of seven district councillors, and up to three non voting parish members.
Our Independent Person can attend meetings and advise, in a non-voting capacity.
The main functions of the committee are to:
- promote and maintain high standards of conduct by councillors and co-opted members
- assist councillors and co opted members to observe the codes of conduct
- monitor the operation of the codes of conduct
View local determinations by the three Standards Sub Committees.
Under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011, the Council is required to appoint an Independent Person to assist the Council in promoting high standards of conduct amongst Elected Members and Parish and Town Councillors.
The Independent Person will be consulted by the Monitoring Officer/Standards Committee on a decision to investigate an allegation of a breach of the Code of Conduct by a Councillor and prior to a decision being made on an investigated complaint. In addition, the Independent Person can be contacted by the Member of the Authority against whom an allegation has been made.
South Lakeland District Council’s Independent Person is Mr David Tweddle.
David Tweddle was a police officer for Cumbria Constabulary for 30 years, achieving the rank of Detective Inspector. As a police officer he was involved, with the Police Federation, in representing colleagues who fell foul of the police code of conduct. He then joined the Constabulary’s legal department before moving to the Professional Standards Department where he investigated complaints made by the public against the police officers and civilian staff. As a police staff member, he became a representative of UNISON and represented and supported colleagues who had allegations made against them.
Mr Tweddle then joined Eden District Council in 2007 as an Independent Member of the Standards Committee which he chaired from 2009. In this role he utilised his experience in dealing with complaints from both sides to the benefit of Councillors, the Council, and most importantly the public.
On his new role as South Lakeland District Council’s Independent Person, Mr Tweddle has said, “I am delighted to have been chosen as Independent Person for South Lakeland District Council, and believe the new legislation provides more opportunity to deal with complaints in a reasonable, proportionate manner avoiding where possible costly investigations and seeking to find some form of local resolution to issues raised.”
Mr Tweddle said he will be guided by the following:
For the public:
- believe it is essential any complaints process has a degree of independence Important that people are aware they have a right to complain and the system is easily accessible
- complaints will be taken seriously and dealt with promptly
In respect of Members complained against, complaints will be dealt with in a fair, open, prompt, and proportionate manner.
Make a complaint
If you want to make a complaint about the conduct of an elected or co-opted member of South Lakeland District Council or a member of a town or parish council within South Lakeland, you should read and complete the below complaint form and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Careful completion of this form will ensure that the Monitoring Officer has all the information needed to enable them to process your complaint.
Please note, the Monitoring Officer can only deal with complaints about the alleged behaviour and conduct of a member. They will not deal with complaints about the council as a whole, or any of the council’s departments or matters not covered by the code of conduct. These complaints are dealt with by a separate process.
The Monitoring Officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within five working days of receiving it, and will keep you informed of progress.
Procedure for dealing with complaints against individual members
The Monitoring Officer will review every complaint received and, after consultation with the Independent Person, take a decision as to whether it merits formal investigation, normally within ten working days of receipt of the complaint. The Monitoring Officer will then inform you of the decision and the reasons for that decision.
In certain cases where the Monitoring Officer feels that it would be inappropriate to make a decision on whether a complaint merits formal investigation, they may refer it to our Standards Committee.
If a 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.
In appropriate cases, the Monitoring Officer may seek to resolve the complaint informally.
What happens next
If the Monitoring Officer decides that a complaint merits formal investigation, they will appoint an Investigating Officer. The Investigating Officer may need to meet or speak to you to enable them to better understand the nature of your complaint. The Investigating Officer will normally write to the member about whom you have complained and provide them with a copy of the complaint, requesting them to provide their explanation of events.
In exceptional circumstances, where it is appropriate to keep your identity confidential or where disclosure of details of the complaint might prejudice the investigation, the Monitoring Officer may 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 the investigation, the Investigating Officer will produce a draft report, copies of which will be sent in confidence to both you and the member concerned for comment. Having received and taken into account any comments raised, the Investigating Officer will then send a final report to the Monitoring Officer. If the Monitoring Officer is not satisfied that the investigation has been conducted properly, they may ask the Investigating Officer to reconsider the report.
- if the Investigating Officer concludes 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 consultation with the Independent Person, if satisfied, will write to you and the member concerned (and the parish council where the complaint relates to a parish councillor), notifying that they are satisfied that no further action is required, also providing you both with a copy of the Investigating Officer’s final report.
- if the Investigating Officer concludes 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 local hearing before a Hearings Panel of our Standards Committee or, after consulting the Independent Person, seek Local Resolution.
In cases where the Monitoring Officer feels that the matter can reasonably be resolved without the need for a hearing, they 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 their 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 relevant 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 to a Hearings Panel of the Standards Committee.
Should the Monitoring Officer consider that a local resolution is not appropriate or if you are not satisfied with a proposed local resolution, or if the member concerned is not prepared to undertake any proposed remedial action, then the Monitoring Officer will report the Investigating Officer’s report to a hearings panel of the Standards Committee which will conduct a local 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.
We have an agreed procedure for local hearings about the personal conduct of council members (PDF 78KB / 7 pages). Hard copies are available on request. This information will be supplied to complainants where complaints reach this stage.
Sanctions available to the Standards Committee
The Standards Committee has sanctions available where a member has failed to comply with the code of conduct.
The council has delegated to the Standards 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. The Sanctions the committee can apply include:
- publish its findings in respect of the member’s conduct;
- send a formal letter to the Member;
- 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 members, 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;
- 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 certain facilities provided to the member by the Council; or
- 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.
The Standards Committee has no power to suspend or disqualify the member or to withdraw members’ or special responsibility allowances and there is no right of appeal against the decision.
In respect of Parish/Town Councillors, where a finding is referred to a Parish/Town Council with recommendations, the Parish/Town Council will consider the recommendations and take a decision on the basis of the Standards Committee’s report and findings. The Parish/Town Council will not re-open the investigation and there is no right of appeal against the Parish/Town Council’s decision.
There is no right of appeal for you, as complainant, or for the member against a decision of the Monitoring Officer or of the hearings panel. If you feel that the authority has failed to deal with your complaint properly, you may make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.