What if I have a complaint about the behaviour of a particular Councillor (or Councillors)?
Councillors are obliged to observe a "Code of Conduct". If you feel a District Councillor or a Councillor who is on any Parish or Town Council within New Forest District, has broken any of the rules in the Code of Conduct, you can complain to New Forest District Council's Monitoring Officer.
How do I complain?
You can download a complaints form or forms can also be obtained from any of the Council's Information offices, or telephone 023 8028 5588 and ask for Rosemary Rutins and we will send you a copy. You do not have to use the complaints form, but your complaint should include all the information requested on the form.
Your complaint must be about:
1. a named Councillor (or Councillors) who was, at the time of the action you are complaining about, an elected or co-opted member of New Forest District Council or one of the Parish or Town Councils in New Forest District Council; and
2. behaviour covered by the Code of Conduct (see below).
You must send your complaint to:
The Monitoring Officer
New Forest District Council
Hampshire SO43 7PA
Please note that making a complaint will often mean that your name and a copy of your complaint will be passed to the member you are complaining about. If it is eventually decided that some action should be taken on your complaint, your name may also be placed in the public domain, including the internet. However, we will not publish your address (unless it is material to your complaint), telephone number, e-mail address or signature.
The complaint form tells you what to do if you have any concerns about your name or details of your complaint being released.
Complaint leaflets and forms are also available in Braille, large print, and on tape/cd. If you would like a copy of the information on this page, or a complaint form, in one of these formats or in a language other than English, please telephone 023 8028 5000 and ask for the Equalities Officer or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
What type of behaviour is covered by the Code of Conduct?
Broadly, the Code requires Councillors:-
Not to use their position improperly to their own or someone else's advantage, or disadvantage;
Not to use their Councils' resources improperly
Not to do anything to prevent Council employees being unbiased;
Not to bully anyone;
Not to intimidate anyone involved in an investigation or proceedings about someone's misconduct;
Not to disclose confidential information;
Not to stop anyone gaining access to information they are entitled to by law;
Not to discriminate unlawfully;
A copy of the Code of Conduct is available - Code of Conduct for Council Members .
Parish and Town Councils have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, similar Codes. However, they are, if they wish, entitled to adopt a differently worded Code from that of the District Council. For a copy of a particular Parish or Town Council's Code of Conduct please contact the relevant Parish or Town Clerk.
What will happen to my complaint?
In certain straightforward circumstances the Monitoring Officer is entitled to dismiss your complaint at the outset. This will happen if:
(a) the person you are complaining about is no longer a Councillor, or
(b) the conduct you are complaining about happened in the Councillor's private life, not when they were acting as a Councillor; or
(c) the conduct you are complaining about happened over a year before you complained, or you knew of it for more than 6 months before you complained.
If your complaint is not dismissed for any of these reasons, a copy of your complaint will be sent to the Councillor you are complaining about, who will be invited to submit any written comments he/she may wish to make. (If you do not wish this to happen, you should make this clear, with reasons, when you submit your complaint. The Monitoring Officer and the Chief Executive will then decide whether they can, or should, proceed with the matter without first giving the Councillor details of your name and/or complaint. If they decide that this information should not be withheld from the Councillor, you will be informed and asked whether you wish to withdraw your complaint, or whether you wish details to be forwarded to the Councillor concerned so your complaint can proceed).
When any written response from the Councillor has been received, the Monitoring Officer and Chief executive will meet, usually with a person independent of the Council who has been appointed for this purpose, and decide how to proceed. You will be notified in writing of their decision and the reasons for it. There is no right of appeal against it to the Council.
The options open to the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer are;
(a) to take no action on your complaint (see * below), or
(b) to attempt to resolve the matter informally, or
(c) to arrange a formal hearing before a Panel of 3 Councillors who are not connected with the complaint, at which you and the Councillor you are complaining about can state your case and if necessary call witnesses; or
(d) (In exceptionally complex cases) to arrange for an investigation to be carried out by an independent investigator. If the investigator considers the Councillor concerned did not breach the Code of Conduct, you will be informed of this. If the investigator considers the Councillor did breach the Code, a formal hearing will be arranged as in (c) above.
If, at a hearing, the Panel of Councillors decides the Councillor you are complaining about did breach the Code of Conduct, they may formally censure him/her, and/or give to their findings whatever level of publicity they consider appropriate (otherwise known as "naming and shaming"). By law they have no power to suspend or disqualify the Councillor concerned, although they can make recommendations to the Council, such as that the Councillor be removed from a particular Committee or position he/she holds.
* No action will be taken when the Monitoring Officer and Chief Executive are of the view that any of the following applies:
there is no prima facie evidence that the Code has been breached;
taking into account the nature of the allegation, using public funds to examine the matter further would be disproportionate;
the complaint appears to be vexatious, politically motivated, tit-for-tat or made by a persistent complainant;
the conduct complained about has already been the subject of investigation or enquiry by another public body;
the same, or substantially the same, issue has been the subject of a previous Code of Conduct allegation, and there is nothing further to be gained;
there is not enough information to take the matter further;
the complaint was made anonymously;
the complainant has requested that their identity as complainant be withheld from the member, and the matter cannot reasonably be taken further in these circumstances;
the member has already apologised for the action that was the subject of the complaint, and that is sufficient to dispose of the complaint;
the complaint is essentially against the action of the Council as a whole and cannot properly be directed against an individual member(s).
What about behaviour not covered by the Code of Conduct?
New Forest District Council has adopted other local codes that its Councillors are obliged to follow. In particular there is a code covering the conduct expected by those involved in making planning decisions. Full copies are on this website at Chapter 30 , Local Code for Member/Officer Relations, and Chapter 33 Local Code for Councillors and Officers Dealing with Planning Matters, of the Constitution.
Complaints about breaches of these local codes can be dealt with in the same way as complaints about breaches of the statutory Code of Conduct. If you think a Councillor has broken one of the local codes, you should write to:
The Monitoring Officer
New Forest District Council
Hampshire SO43 7PA
giving the name of the Councillor you are complaining about and details of your complaint. You should also make it clear that you want your complaint to be dealt with under the local code, rather than under the Code of Conduct. Please note this only applies to District Councillors, not Parish or Town Councillors.
It is a criminal offence for a Councillor not to comply with certain statutory rules concerning the registration and disclosure of pecuniary interests. Any person who considers that a Councillor has broken these rules is entitled to bring the matter to the attention of the Police. Prosecution can be undertaken only by the Director of Public Prosecutions