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Complain against a councillor

If you think a district, town or parish councillor has broken any of the rules in their relevant Code of Conduct, you can complain to our monitoring officer.

On this page:

Code of Conduct

All councillors must adhere to a statutory Code of Conduct. This requires councillors not to:

  • use their position improperly to their own or someone else's advantage or disadvantage
  • use their council's resources improperly
  • do anything to prevent council employees being unbiased
  • bully anyone
  • intimidate anyone involved in an investigation or proceedings about someone's misconduct
  • disclose confidential information
  • stop anyone gaining access to information they are entitled to by law
  • discriminate unlawfully.

You can download a copy of our Code of Conduct below.

New Forest District Council's Code of Conduct (PDF) [12KB] (opens new window)

Most parish and town councils have adopted similar codes. However, they are 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, contact the relevant parish or town clerk.

Filing a complaint

To submit a complaint about a councillor, download the complaints form below.

Councillor Complaint Form (Word doc) [80KB]

Procedure for Dealing with Complaints (PDF) [95KB]

Hard copy forms can also be obtained from any of the council's Information Offices. 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:

  • a named councillor who was, at the time of the action you are complaining about, an elected or co-opted member of the parish, town or district councils
  • behaviour covered by the Code of Conduct.

You can complain about more than one councillor, but must provide full details of each councillor as per above.

Send your complaint form to:

The Monitoring Officer
New Forest District Council
Appletree Court
Beaulieu Road
SO43 7PA

Or by email:

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 relevant to your complaint), telephone number, email 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, tape, CD and other languages. To request these, call 023 8028 5000 and ask for the Equalities Officer, or email

Response to complaints

Dismissal of complaints

In certain straightforward circumstances, the Monitoring Officer is entitled to dismiss your complaint at the outset. This will happen in any of these circumstances:

  • the person you are complaining about is no longer a councillor
  • the conduct you are complaining about happened in the councillor's private life, not when they were acting as a councillor
  • the conduct you are complaining about happened over a year before you complained
  • you knew of the conduct you are complaining about for more than six months before you complained.

Not informing a councillor of the complaint

If your complaint is not dismissed, a copy of your complaint will be sent to the councillor you are complaining about, who will be invited to submit any written comments they wish to make.

If you do not wish the councillor to be informed, make the reasons for this clear when you submit your complaint. The Monitoring Officer and the Chief Executive will then decide if this information should be withheld from the councillor.

If they decide against this, you will be asked whether you wish to withdraw your complaint before it proceeds further.

Next steps

When any written response from the councillor has been received, the Monitoring Officer and the Chief Executive will meet to decide how to proceed. This meeting is usually attended by a person independent of the council who has been appointed for this purpose.

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.

Resolving complaints

The options open to the Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer are as follows.

  • take no action on your complaint
  • attempt to resolve the matter informally
  • arrange a formal hearing before a panel of three councillors unconnected with the complaint
  • arrange for an investigation to be carried out by an independent investigator.

Formal hearing

At a formal hearing, you and the councillor you are complaining about can both state your case before the panel and call witnesses if necessary.

If the panel decides the councillor you are complaining about did breach the Code of Conduct, it may formally censure the councillor and/or give their findings whatever level of publicity it considers appropriate. 

By law, the panel has no power to suspend or disqualify a councillor. However, it can make recommendations to the council, such as that the councillor be removed from a particular committee or position.

Independent investigation

An independent investigation is only undertaken in exceptionally complex cases.

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 of Conduct, a formal hearing will be arranged.

Taking no action

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 of Conduct has been breached
  • using public funds to examine the matter further would be disproportionate to the complaint's nature
  • the complaint appears to be vexatious, politically motivated or made by a persistent complainant
  • the conduct complained about has already been the subject of investigation or inquiry by another public body
  • the same or similar 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
  • the member has already apologised, 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.

Where a complaint is about the conduct of a parish or town councillor, decisions on the complaint will be sent to the clerk of the relevant parish or town council.

Local codes

We have adopted other local codes that our district councillors are obliged to follow. This does not apply to parish or town councillors.

You can download these local codes below.

Local Code for Member-Officer Relations (PDF) [39KB] (opens new window)

Local Code for Councillors and Officers Dealing with Planning Matters (PDF) [38KB] (opens new window)

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, follow the same procedure but make it clear that you want your complaint to be dealt with under the local code, rather than under the Code of Conduct.

Criminal offences

It is a criminal offence for a councillor not to comply with certain statutory rules concerning the registration and disclosure of pecuniary interests. This means having the opportunity, directly or indirectly, to profit or share in any profit derived from a transaction.

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.

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