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
- Arrangements for dealing with complaints against Members [pdf document]
- Online Member complaints form [online form, opens in new window]
- Member complaints form (pdf) [pdf document]
- Member complaints form (Word) [Word document]
How complaints are dealt with
Arrangements for dealing with complaints against Members [pdf document]
- Openness and transparency on personal interests - a guide for Councillors [external link, pdf document]
- All Members are required to complete a register of interest form when they are elected. These are available to view on individual Councillor pages (for ward Councillors) and the Parish Councillor page.
The Monitoring Officer
The Monitoring Officer can be contacted as follows:
Assistant Director, Law and Governance
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.
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.