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Member conduct and complaints

All Councils must demonstrate high standards of conduct by Members and Officers.

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), has failed to comply with that Authority's Code of Conduct, and for complaints to be dealt with and decisions made about them.

The Council's Monitoring Officer who is a senior officer of the authority has statutory responsibility for maintaining the register of Members' interests and responsibility for dealing with complaints of member conduct.

The Monitoring Officer considers every complaint taking into account the views of the Independent Person to consider if it should be investigated. 

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.

Code of Conduct

Councillors must comply with the Code of Conduct.

The current version of the  Code of Conduct [pdf document] was adopted by the Council with effect from 1 January 2022 and is based on the Local Government Association Model Councillor Code of Conduct.

For complaints that relate to conduct before 1 January 2022 the earlier Code of Conduct [pdf document] applies.

How to make a complaint

How complaints are dealt with

Arrangements for dealing with complaints against Members [pdf document]

Members interests

The Monitoring Officer

The Monitoring Officer can be contacted as follows:

Luke Swinhoe
Assistant Director, Law and Governance
Town Hall

Telephone: 01325 405490

Email: [email protected]

The Independent Person

In accordance with the Localism Act 2011 the views of an Independent Person are taken into account by the Monitoring Officer when carrying out an assessment of a complaint.

An Independent Person is invited to attend meetings of the Committee and their views are sought and taken into consideration by the Committee.

The Council appointed Beverley Boal and Julie Mathieson to the role of Independent Person on 29 September 2022.

Beverley Boal lives in Sunderland and is employed by the Care Quality Commission as an Inspection Manager.

Beverley previously worked for Sunderland City Council in a number of roles including as the Complaints Manager.

Julie Mathieson lives in Darlington, is a solicitor and has been the Managing Director of DMA Law since 2011.

Julie’s responsibilities include complaints and compliance issues.

Member Standards Hearing Committee

There are five Borough Councillors on the Committee.

View more details about the membership of the Members Standards Hearing Committee

The quorum is three Borough Council Members and for Parish Council complaints the quorum will be two Borough Council Members and a Parish Council Member.

The Committee deals with complaints referred to it by the Monitoring Officer and after a full hearing and any advice from the Independent Person and the Monitoring Officer decides whether or not a councillor has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct.

If the Committee decide there was no failure the complaint will be dismissed.

If the Committee decide that the councillor failed to comply with the Code of Conduct they will then decide what action should be taken.

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