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Complaint against a Councillor guidance

This guidance is to assist you filling in the complaints form. If you wish to make a complaint against a Councillor please see our make a complaint about a Councillor page to ensure your complaint is valid.

The information you provide on the complaint form will be used to process your complaint.

We collect your personal data in order to progress your complaint, provide you with a response and contact you if required for further information. We will not use your personal information (your name, email, address or telephone number) for any other purposes.

The information regarding this complaint will be held electronically on a computer database and a hard copy held safely in a secure environment. It may be shared with other department(s) within West Northamptonshire Council and also with other bodies and persons where it is relevant and necessary to progress your complaint.

Your personal data will not be passed onto any other third party without your permission. It should be noted that the Councillor who is the subject of your complaint may share your information with a third party if they wish to seek further advice on how to respond to your complaint. 

The Arrangements require complainants to provide their details, ie name and contact number. The complainant’s name is shared with the Subject Member when they are notified of the complaint; unless there are extenuating circumstances.

The information you provide on the form will be retained electronically for six years from closure of your complaint, after which period it will be deleted. All paper copies will be securely destroyed after your complaint is closed.

If at any point you believe the information we hold on you is incorrect you can request to see this information and have it corrected or deleted. If you wish to raise a complaint on how we have handled your personal data, you can contact our Data Protection Officer to have the matter investigated. If you are not satisfied with our response or believe we are not processing your personal data in accordance with the law you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

All Councillors have to comply with a Code of Conduct. The Code sets out rules about how Councillors should behave towards the public and also requires them to disclose any personal interests they have.

If you think a Councillor has broken the Code, you can make a complaint about a Councillor.

Guidance Notes

Making your complaint

Your complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the Council’s ‘Arrangements for dealing with allegations of breaches of the West Northamptonshire Council Members’ Code of Conduct and of Codes of Conduct adopted by Parish Councils’ (“the Arrangements”).

Our Monitoring Officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within ten working days of receiving it and will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint.

The Monitoring Officer is a senior officer of the Council who has statutory responsibility for maintaining the Members’ Register of Interests and who is responsible for administering the Council’s Arrangements in respect of complaints of alleged Councillor misconduct.

If you request to withhold your identity so you can remain anonymous from the Member complained about, you will only be granted this in exceptional circumstances. The Monitoring Officer must balance the right of the Member to properly understand the complaint against them and respond to it, with the rights of the complainant.

This normally means that the Member will need to be told who is making the complaint.  If you want to request your identity is withheld, you must indicate this and the reason you are making the request in the space provided on the complaint form. The Monitoring Officer will contact you in writing if your request has not been granted.

Initial Assessment of Your Complaint

The Monitoring Officer, who reviews all complaints received by the authority, will review your complaint and may consult with the Independent Person at this initial assessment stage. (We are required by law to appoint at least one Independent Person in connection with the Arrangements. In broad terms, the Independent Person is someone who is not (or has not recently been) an Officer of the Council or a Member or co-opted Member of the Council or of any Parish Council within the West Northamptonshire area. Certain classes of relatives and close friends of Members and Officers are also prevented by law from being an Independent Person.)

If your complaint does not fall within the scope or intent of the Arrangements, the Monitoring Officer may still decide to take informal action in order to resolve the matter. In assessing your complaint, the Monitoring Officer will determine whether the complaint is admissible and, if so, decide whether it

  • warrants investigation
  • may be suitable for alternative resolution without investigation
  • does not warrant any further action

For the complaint to be admissible it must be in a legible format and relate to an existing Member of the Council or existing Member of a Parish Council within West Northamptonshire.

In determining whether or not the complaint should be referred for investigation or to seek alternative resolution, the Monitoring Officer (and Independent Person if involved at this initial assessment stage) will have regard to a range of factors including the following:

  • Is the complaint against one or more named current Members of the authority or of a parish or town council within the West Northamptonshire area?
  • Was the Member in office at the time of the alleged conduct?
  • Does the complaint relate to matters where the Member was acting in their official capacity?
  • Would the complaint, if proven, be a breach of the Code under which the Member was operating at the time of the alleged misconduct?
  • Does the complaint relate to conduct that occurred within the last six months or, if not, is there good reason for the delay in the submission of the complaint?
  • How serious is the alleged complaint?
  • Is the complaint politically motivated, vexatious or tit for tat?
  • Is there sufficient information upon which to base a decision?
  • Is the matter considered suitable for alternative resolution and are either the Member concerned or the complainant not prepared to accept alternative resolution as a solution?
  • Was the complaint made by one Member against another, in circumstances where a greater allowance for robust political debate should be given?
  • Would it be proportionate and in the public interest to carry out an investigation?
  • Is the conduct something which it is possible to investigate?
  • Is there evidence which supports the complaint?
  • Would the complaint, even if proven, be unlikely to be serious enough to warrant any sanction?
  • Has the behaviour that is the subject of the complaint already been adequately dealt with e.g. through an apology at the relevant meeting?
  • Does the complaint actually relate to dissatisfaction with a local authority decision rather than the conduct of a specific Member?

The initial assessment of the complaint will normally be taken within 30 working days of receipt of your complaint and you will be informed, in writing, of the outcome by the Monitoring Officer.

Unless exceptional circumstances exist that indicate otherwise, the Monitoring Officer will inform the Councillor concerned of the receipt and nature of the complaint and invite their comments.

Submitting your form and additional help

Complaints must be submitted in writing. This includes submissions by e-mail and submissions of the online form. However, we can make reasonable adjustments to assist you if you have a disability that prevents you from making your complaint in writing.

We can also help if English is not your first language.

If you need any support in completing this form, please let us know as soon as possible by contacting [email protected].

Last updated 31 May 2024