Member Code of Conduct Complaints Process

Guidance for Complaints

KETTERING BOROUGH COUNCIL

Arrangements

For dealing with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011

1    Context

These “Arrangements” set out how you may make a complaint that an elected or co-opted member of Kettering Borough Council or a Town or Parish council within its area has failed to comply with the authority’s Code of Conduct, and sets out how the Council  will deal with allegations of a failure to comply with the authority’s Code of Conduct.

Under Section 28(6) and (7) of the Localism Act 2011, the Council must have in place “arrangements” under which allegations that a member or co-opted member of the Council [or of a town or parish council within the authority’s area] or of a Committee or Sub-Committee of the authority, has failed to comply with that Council’s Code of Conduct can be investigated and decisions made on such allegations.

Such arrangements must provide for the Council to appoint at least one Independent Person, whose views must be sought by the Council before it takes a decision on an allegation which it has decided shall be investigated, and whose views can be sought by the authority at any other stage, or by a member or a member or co-opted member of a  Town or parish council against whom an allegation as been made.

2    The Code of Conduct

The Council has adopted a Code of Conduct for members, which is attached as Appendix One to these arrangements and available for inspection on the Council’s website at www.Kettering.gov.uk  and on request from the Municipal Offices, Bowling Green Road, Kettering, NN15 7QX.

Each Town and Parish council is also required to adopt a Code of Conduct. If you wish to inspect a Town/Parish Council’s Code of Conduct, you should inspect any website operated by the parish council and request the parish clerk to allow you to inspect the parish council’s Code of Conduct.

3    Making a complaint

If you wish to make a complaint, please write or email to –

“The Monitoring Officer
Kettering Borough Council
Municipal Offices
Bowling Green Road
Kettering Borough Council NN15 7QX

The Monitoring Officer of the authority has statutory responsibility for maintaining the register of members’ interests and who is responsible for administering the system in respect of complaints of member misconduct.

In order to ensure that you submit all the information which is required to process your complaint (including any documentation that supports your claim) please use the model complaint form, which can be downloaded from the authority’s website and is available on request from the Monitoring Officer. The Complaint Form is attached at Appendix Two.

Please provide us with your name and a contact address or email address, so that we can acknowledge receipt of your complaint and keep you informed of its progress. If you want to keep your name and address confidential, please indicate this in the space provided on the complaint form, in which case we will not disclose your name and address to the member against whom you make the complaint, without your prior consent. The authority does not normally investigate anonymous complaints, unless there is a clear public interest in doing so.

The Monitoring Officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 5 working days of receiving it, and will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint.

4    Will your complaint be investigated?

The Complaints procedure will be conducted by the Head of Paid Service in consultation with the Monitoring Officer and the Responsible Finance Officer and is referred to in this procedure as the Statutory Officer Group.

The Statutory Officer Group will review every complaint received and, may consult with the Independent Person, (see paragraph 11 below) and take a decision as to whether it merits formal investigation. This decision will normally be taken within 28 days of receipt of your complaint. You will be informed of the decision and the reasons for that decision.

Where additional information is required in order to come to a decision, you may be contacted for such information, and the Monitoring Officer may request information from the member against whom your complaint is directed. Where your complaint relates to a Parish Councillor, the Monitoring Officer may also inform the Parish Council or your complaint and seek the views of the Parish Council before the Statutory Officer Group decide whether the complaint merits formal investigation.

Where the Statutory Officer Group feel it is appropriate, they may seek to resolve the complaint informally, without the need for a formal investigation. Such informal resolution may involve the member accepting that his/her conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology, or other remedial action by the Council. Where the member or the Council make a reasonable offer of local resolution, but you are not willing to accept that offer, the Statutory Officer Group will take account of this in deciding whether the complaint merits formal investigation.

In determining whether a complaint should be referred for investigation or to seek an informal resolution the Statutory Officer Group will take into account the following criteria:

I)    Has the complainant provided sufficient information to make a decision
II)    Does the complaint show a potential breach of the Code?
III)    Was the Councillor complained about acting in his official capacity?
IV)    Is the complaint about something that happened so long ago that there would be little benefit in taking action?
V)    Is the complaint to trivial to warrant further action?
VI)    Is the complaint politically motivated, vexatious or tit for tat?
VII)    Is there an alternative resolution available to address the complaint?

If your complaint identifies criminal conduct or breach of other regulation by any person, the Statutory Officer Group has the power to call in the Police and other regulatory agencies.

5    How is the investigation conducted?

If the Statutory Officer Group decides that a complaint merits formal investigation, an Investigating Officer will be appointed, who may be another senior officer of the Council , an officer of another Council or an external investigator. The Investigating Officer will decide whether he/she needs to meet or speak to you to understand the nature of your complaint and so that you can explain your understanding of events and suggest what documents the Investigating Officer needs to see, and who the Investigating Officer needs to interview.

The Investigating Officer will normally write to the member against whom you have complained and provide him/her with a copy of your complaint, and ask the member to provide his/her explanation of events, and to identify what documents he needs to see and who he needs to interview. In exceptional cases, where it is appropriate to keep your identity confidential or disclosure of details of the complaint to the member might prejudice the investigation, the Monitoring Officer can 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 his/her investigation, the Investigating Officer will produce a draft report and will send copies of that draft report, in confidence, to you and to the member concerned, to give you both an opportunity to identify any matter in that draft report which you disagree with or which you consider requires more consideration.

Having received and taken account of any comments which you may make on the draft report, the Investigating Officer will send their final report to the Statutory Officer Group.

6    What happens if the Investigating Officer concludes that there is no evidence of a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Statutory Officer Group will, in consultation with the Independent Person, review the Investigating Officer’s report and, if they are satisfied that the Investigating Officer’s report is sufficient, a letter will be sent to you and to the member concerned and to the Town/Parish Council, where your complaint relates to a Town/Parish Councillor, notifying you that he/she is satisfied that no further action is required, and give you both a copy of the Investigating Officer’s final report.

7    What happens if the Investigating Officer concludes that there is evidence of a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Statutory Officer Group will review the Investigating Officer’s report and will then either send the matter for local hearing before the Hearings Panel or, after consulting the Independent Person, seek local resolution.

7.1    Local Resolution

The Statutory Officer Group may consider that the matter can reasonably be resolved without the need for a hearing. In such a case, 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 his/her 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 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 Statutory Officer Group will refer the matter for a local hearing.

7.2    Local Hearing

If the Statutory Officer Group considers that local resolution is not appropriate, or you are not satisfied by the proposed resolution, or the member concerned is not prepared to undertake any proposed remedial action, such as giving an apology, then they will report the Investigating Officer’s report to the Hearings Panel 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.

If the Investigating Officer’s report is referred for a Local Hearing the Monitoring Officer will conduct a “pre-hearing process”, requiring the member to give their response to the Investigating Officer’s report, in order to identify what is likely to be agreed and what is likely to be in contention at the hearing, and the Chair of the Hearings Panel may issue directions as to the manner in which the hearing will be conducted. At the hearing, the Investigating Officer will present his/her report, call such witnesses as he/she considers necessary and make representations to substantiate his/her conclusion that the member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct. For this purpose, the Investigating Officer may ask you as the complainant to attend and give evidence to the Hearings Panel. The member will then have an opportunity to give his/her evidence, to call witnesses and to make representations to the Hearings Panel as to why he/she considers that he/she did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct.

The Hearings Panel, with the benefit of any advice from the Independent Person, may conclude that the member did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, and so dismiss the complaint. If the Hearings Panel concludes that the member did fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, the Chair will inform the member of this finding and the Hearings Panel will then consider what action, if any, the Hearings Panel should take as a result of the member’s failure to comply with the Code of Conduct. In doing this, the Hearings Panel will give the member an opportunity to make representations to the Panel and will consult the Independent Person, but will then decide what action, if any, to take in respect of the matter..

8    What action can the Hearings Panel take where a member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Hearings Panel may recommend to Council any of the following sanctions  –

8.1    Censure or reprimand the member

8.2    Publish its findings in respect of the member’s conduct;

8.3    Report its findings to Council or to the Town/Parish Council for information;

8.4    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;

8.5    Recommend to the Leader of the Council that the member be removed from the Cabinet, or removed from particular Portfolio responsibilities;

8.6    Instruct the Monitoring Officer to [or recommend that the Parish Council] arrange training for the member;

8.7    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];

8.8    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; or

8.9    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.

9    What happens at the end of the hearing?

At the end of the hearing, the Chair will state the recommendation of the Hearings Panel as to whether the member failed to comply with the Code of Conduct and as to any actions which the Hearings Panel recommends Council to take.

As soon as reasonably practicable thereafter, the Monitoring Officer shall prepare a formal decision notice in consultation with the Chair of the Hearings Panel, and send a copy to you, to the member [and to the Parish Council], make that decision notice available for public inspection and report the decision to the next convenient meeting of the Council.

10    Who are the Hearings Panel?

The Hearings Panel is a Sub-Committee of the Council’s Standards Advisory Committee. The Standards Advisory Committee has decided that it will comprise a maximum of five members drawn from the Standards Advisory committee.

The Independent Person is invited to attend all meetings of the Hearings Panel and his views are sought and taken into consideration before the Hearings Panel takes any decision on whether the member’s conduct constitutes a failure to comply with the Code of conduct and as to any action to be taken following a finding of failure to comply with the Code of Conduct.

11    Who is the Independent Person?

The Independent Person is a person who has applied for the post following advertisement of a vacancy for the post, and is the appointed by a positive vote from a majority of all the members of Council.

A person cannot be “independent” if he/she –

11.1    Is, or has been within the past 5 years, a member, co-opted member or  officer of the Council or a parish Council within the authority’s area unless appointed before 1 July 2013

11.2    Is a relative, or close friend, of a person within paragraph 11.1 or 11.2 above. For this purpose, “relative” means –

11.2.1    Spouse or civil partner;

11.2.2    Living with the other person as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners;

11.2.3    Grandparent of the other person;

11.2.4    A lineal descendent of a grandparent of the other person;

11.2.5    A parent, sibling or child of a person within paragraphs 11.3.1 or 11.3.2;

11.2.6    A spouse or civil partner of a person within paragraphs 11.3.3, 11.3.4 or 11.3.5; or

11.2.7    Living with a person within paragraphs 11.3.3, 11.3.4 or 11.3.5 as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners.

12    Revision of these arrangements

The Council may by resolution agree to amend these arrangements, and has delegated to the Chair of the Hearings Panel the right to depart from these arrangements where he/she considers that it is expedient to do so in order to secure the effective and fair consideration of any matter.

13    Appeals

There is no right of appeal

If you feel that the authority has failed to deal with your complaint properly, you may make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.


Appendix One - The authority’s Code of Conduct


Appendix two - The Complaint Form