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Introduction

Somerset Council has 110 councillors (members) who are elected.

In addition, the Council has some co-opted members (who are not councillors) on its committees.

All councillors and co-opted members are required to undertake and comply with the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct, which you can find on our Constitution page. This ensures high standards of conduct in the way they carry out their duties.

Each Town and Parish Council is responsible for deciding what its own Code of Conduct should contain so its provisions may differ from our own. Please contact the relevant Town or Parish Council to get a copy of their Code to see if the behaviour you wish to complain about is covered. If it is not, then we cannot deal with the complaint.

Members' Code of Conduct Requirements

The Code is based on the seven principles of public life, which are set out below. Elected members and co-opted members must have regard to these principles when fulfilling their role.

Selflessness

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

Integrity

Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

Objectivity

Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must admit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Openness

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

Honesty

Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership

Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

The Code requires general behaviours and obligations from elected members and co-opted members when undertaking Council business. They must:

  • Not unlawfully discriminate against someone
  • Treat people with respect
  • Not bully any person
  • Not intimidate any person involved in any investigation or proceedings about someone’s misconduct
  • Not do something to prevent those who work for, or on behalf of, the authority from being unbiased
  • Not reveal information that was given to them in confidence, or stop someone getting information they are entitled to by law
  • Not damage the reputation of their office or authority, where the conduct is linked to their public role and not in their private capacity
  • Not use their position improperly, to their own or someone else’s advantage or disadvantage
  • Not misuse their authority’s resources
  • Not allow their authority’s resources to be misused for the activities of a registered political party
  • Register financial or other interests, declare them and withdraw as necessary from meetings, and/or record them as necessary under the requirements of the Code of Conduct
  • Register any gifts or hospitality (including the source), that they have received in their role as a member worth over £50. Register Gifts and hospitality form.

Breaching the Code is a serious matter and, in certain circumstances, can be a criminal offence punishable by a fine and disqualification from being a councillor for up to 5 years.

Your complaint

Your complaint must:

  • be about an elected member or a co-opted member of Somerset Council or a Town, Parish, City Council within the area.
  • fall within the scope of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
  • be about conduct that occurred while the councillor(s) complained about were in office. Conduct of an individual before they were elected, co-opted or appointed to the authority, or after they have resigned or otherwise ceased to be a councillor, cannot be considered.
  • be that the alleged breach must have occurred when the councillor was acting in their “official capacity.” What a councillor does in their private life is not a matter for the Code of Conduct. A councillor is entitled to a private life and what a councillor does in their private life is not a matter for the Code of Conduct and not something which can be dealt with under this process.

If you are not sure whether or not your complaint falls within these categories, please contact the Monitoring Officer for an informal discussion.

If you think that an elected member or co-opted member may have breached the Members’ Code of Conduct and you wish to make a formal complaint, please complete and submit our Complaint against a Councillor form to the Monitoring Officer. This form is also available in hard copy from the Monitoring Officer. This will ensure that all the information necessary to be able to deal efficiently with your complaint is provided.

Guidance on how to make a complaint and a flowchart of the complaints process can be viewed in the Downloads section.

What is not classed as a complaint?

Complaints about dissatisfaction with a decision or action of the authority or one of its committees, a service provided by the authority or the authority’s procedures or decision-making do not fall within the jurisdiction of a Code of Conduct complaint. These complaints should be pursued through the relevant authority’s own internal complaints procedure.

Complaints about the actions of people employed by the authority for example the Clerk of a Town or Parish Council, also do not fall within the jurisdiction of a Code of Conduct complaint. Again, these complaints should be pursued through the relevant authority’s own internal complaints procedure.

If you are not sure whether or not your complaint falls within these categories, please contact the Monitoring Officer for an informal discussion.

Please note that trivial, frivolous, vexatious and politically motivated tit-for-tat complaints are likely to be rejected. The Monitoring Officer (or their deputy) or the Standards Committee (as appropriate) will make the decision about what action, if any, to take on your complaint.

Last reviewed: May 1, 2024 by Daniel

Next review due: November 1, 2024

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