Councillors - Complaints Process

Complaints Against Councillors

What you can complain about

You can complain about a councillor breaking any part of their authority’s Code of Conduct when they are acting (or giving the impression they are acting) as a representative of their Council or doing Council business.  

This includes:

  • Treating others with respect.
  • Bullying.
  • Intimidating a complainant or witness.
  • Compromising the impartiality of officers.
  • Bringing their Council/office as councillor or executive member into disrepute.
  • Disclosing information given in confidence/confidential information unless:
    • They have consent; or
    • Are required to do so by law; or
    • Disclosure to obtain professional advice; or
  • Disclosure reasonable, in public interest, in good faith, in compliance with reasonable requirements of the authority.
  • Using their position improperly to obtain advantage or disadvantage for anyone.
  • Using Council resources for political purposes.
  • Preventing anyone accessing information they have a legal right to.
  • Failing to register financial or other interests.
  • Failing to reveal a pecuniary interest at a meeting.
  • Failing to register any gifts or hospitality they have received in their role as a member, worth over £50.

If none of the above applies to your complaint, it is probably not something we can deal with.

To find out if another organisation can help you, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau, Law Centre or other advice centre.

Who can you complain about

You can complain about councillors, members and co-opted members of all of the authorities we cover.  A co-opted member is a voting member of an authority or one of its committees, who was appointed to their position for their particular skills and experience rather than being elected.

Under this process we can only consider complaints about individual councillors or members. If you wish to complain about the Isle of Wight Council as a whole or about people employed by it or contractors or services, please click here.

Parish and Town Councils can determine their own code and therefore if you wish to obtain a copy you will need to contact the relevant Town or Parish Council direct - to view their contact details.

How to make a complaint

You need to send/email us your complaint, in writing, by filling in a complaint form (PDF, 44.39KB, 4 pages).  The form will help ensure that you are sending us all the information we need. You can either use the form or write a letter that covers all the points in the form. Please send any documents that support your complaint with your form or letter.  

If you have any questions or need any help filling in this form, please contact Mrs Jennifer Beresford, Lead Democratic Services Officer, by using our online ' send a message to service' form or by using the information provided in the 'Contact' tab above.

What we cannot investigate

An Act of Parliament has set out the types of behaviour that we can investigate. There are some complaints that we cannot investigate under this process, including:

  • Complaints where a member is not named.
  • Complaints that are not in writing.
  • Incidents or actions that are not covered by the Code of Conduct.
  • Complaints about the actions (or inactions) of the Council as a whole (these complaints should be dealt with through the Complaints Team - for more details, please click here).
  • Complaints about people employed by local authorities.
  • Incidents that happened before a member was elected.
  • Complaints about the way in which the authority conducts and records its meetings.

Processing your complaint

When we receive your complaint, we will write to you acknowledging receipt of your complaint.  The member will be sent a copy of the complaint, (on the strict proviso that they do not (at this stage) share it with others (other than to seek legal advice or assistance) and that it remains confidential), asking them to give their initial views/response within 10 working days.

Once this has been received the Monitoring Officer (or Deputy) will then assess the complaint and the response from the member, against the Assessment Criteria and decide what action is to be taken. To view the Assessment Criteria. (PDF, 25.34KB, 3 pages).

There are four types of possible action:

(a) Take no action if there is no code of conduct issue.

(b) Ask the Member to take some action (eg make an apology, attend training, correct an entry in a register).

(c) Refer to investigation if there is potentially a breach of the Code of Conduct.

(d) Refer to the police if it is a criminal matter.

Action under (c) and (d) will only be taken in consultation with a designated independent person and potentially a parish councillor representative if the complaint relates to a parish councillor. A Designated Independent Person is someone who is independent of the Council or any political group and who has some experience of dealing with ethical issues. They are appointed for the Monitoring Officer or councillors to consult with on complaints.  The Isle of Wight Association of Local Councils appoints town/parish councillor representatives for us to consult with on parish related complaints.

If the initial decision is to take no action then the complainant has 15 working days in which to request a review by either the Monitoring Officer or Deputy who has not considered the matter the first time round.

You will be told about the decision in writing.  

A complainant can request that a complaint be withdrawn at any stage and all such requests will be determined by the Monitoring Officer or Deputy which may include consultation with a Designated Independent Person.

If you have concerns about this and would like to discuss it with someone, please call either: Mrs Helen Miles, Monitoring Officer or Mr Justin Thorne, Deputy Monitoring Officer on (01983) 821000 who will be pleased to help.

Investigation

If the Monitoring Officer believes the matter should be investigated or referred to the police, one of the Designated Independent Persons will be consulted.

An investigation will be undertaken by a suitably qualified person (usually internally but for some cases it may be necessary to refer the investigation to an external person). The investigation will find either:

(a) No breach of the Code of Conduct in which case the matter stops there, or

(b) A breach of the Code of Conduct in which case the matter will be referred to the Council’s appeals committee for decision. This is made up of three members of the Isle of Wight Council, to determine whether or not they agree with the investigating officer’s conclusion. Where the matter relates to a Parish/Town Councillor the appeals committee may seek the advice of one of the parish/town council representatives.

(c) If the appeal committee decides there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct then for Isle of Wight Councillors they can determine a sanction which can be:

(i) Censure

(ii) Refer to the relevant Group Leader for action

(iii) Publication of findings

(iv) Local Resolution, for example a letter of apology or training

(d) If the matter relates to a Parish/Town Councillor then if a breach has been determined the matter is referred to that Parish/Town Council for them to determine what action to take.

(e) During an investigation it may be that a local resolution can be achieved without the need to conclude the investigation or have the final hearing.  The Designated Independent Person will be consulted in this event. 

Please remember that we can:

  • Only consider complaints that are about individual councillors or members, not the authority as a whole or authority employees (there is a separate complaints process for this).
  • Only investigate matters where you believe a member has breached their authority’s Code of Conduct.
  • Please provide us with as much information as you can about your complaint to help us decide whether or not it should be investigated.
  • Please avoid sending us large amounts of background information that only indirectly relates to your complaint.
  • If your complaint is referred for investigation, you will have a further opportunity to provide the investigator with any information or documents that you consider to be relevant.