Member conduct

All Councils must demonstrate high standards of conduct through the actions of all Members and Officers and the Localism Act 2011 requires "arrangements" to be put in place under which allegations that a member or co-opted member of the Authority (or of a Parish Councillor), or of a Committee or Sub-Committee of the authority, has failed to comply with that Authority's Code of Conduct can be investigated and decisions made on such allegations.

The Committee is supported by the Council's Monitoring Officer who is a senior officer of the authority who has statutory responsibility for maintaining the register of Members' interests and who is responsible for administering the system in respect of complaints of member conduct. The Monitoring Officer has a role of initial assessment of a complaint taking into account the views of the Independent Person.

In cases where the Monitoring Officer refers a complaint for a hearing, this will be dealt with by a panel of three Members drawn from the Member Standards Hearing Committee.  In any hearing Members will be drawn from at least two different political parties and a Parish Council Member will sit in cases where the Member complained about is a Parish Councillor.

How to make a complaint

Members interests

Membership of Member Standards Hearing Committee:

There are five Borough Councillors on the Committee, (Councillors B. Jones, Lawton, Newall, C. Taylor and K.B Nicholson) and three Co-opted Members (serving Parish Councillors M. Beadle, D. Dodwell and M. French) with a quorum of three Borough Council Members and for Parish Council complaints the quorum will be two Borough Council Members and a Parish Council Member.

The Committee is responsible for:

  • hearing cases referred to it by the Monitoring Officer
  • the Committee, can with the benefit of any advice from the Independent Person and or the Monitoring Officer, conclude that the Member did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, and so dismiss the complaint
  • if the Committee concludes that the Member did fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, the Chair will inform the Member of this finding and the Committee will then consider what action, if any, the Committee should take in accordance with the procedure contained in arrangements for dealing with complaints against Members [pdf document]

The Monitoring Officer

The Council's Monitoring Officer is Luke Swinhoe, Assistant Director, Law and Governance.

Every local authority must appoint someone to be the Monitoring Officer. The Monitoring Officer is entrusted with ensuring that all decisions that the Council makes are within the law. The Monitoring Officer also has a key role in promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct amongst Members of the authority, particularly through support to Members of the Council to help them to follow the Code of Conduct and the Council's other rules and procedures. He is also the link between Members and the Member Standards Hearing Committee.

The Monitoring Officer can be contacted as follows:

Luke Swinhoe
Assistant Director, Law and Governance
Resources Group
Town Hall
Darlington
DL1 5QT

Telephone: 01325 405490

Email: luke.swinhoe@darlington.gov.uk

The Independent Person

In accordance with the Localism Act 2011, the Council has appointed an Independent Person, Joanne Kidd, as an Advisor. 

The Independent Person will be invited to attend all meetings of the Committee and his/her views are sought and taken into consideration before the Committee takes any decision on whether the Members' 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 Members Code of Conduct.

Meetings of the Member Standards Hearing Committee

The Member Standards Hearing Committee will meet as required, when a full hearing is needed to consider a complaint.

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Previous Arrangements

Prior to the current arrangements for the handling of Complaints Against Members, this authority had a Standards Committee who were responsible for  seeking to ensure that the Borough Council and Parish Councils maintain the highest ethical standards in all their activities.

View past agenda and reports of the Standards Committee, the Assessment Sub-Committee and the Consideration and Hearing Committees.

Update concerning the appeal of Mrs. Penelope Bence v The Standards Committee of Darlington Borough Council [pdf document]