Since the 2012 Localism Act complaining about a councillor is now a post code lottery and practices vary by council and principal authority. The rights of the public have been significantly decreased. The previous code of conduct which covered Town and Parish councillors was repealed and replaced with a system of what is effectively self regulation under the Localism Act 2012. The previous code of conduct had “teeth” and was administered by the principal authority's (A Unitary, District or County Council) monitoring officer.
As with most self regulation it has and is failing dismally leaving residents with little or no recourse. The Town or or parish clerk was not and is not covered by the code of conduct as they are an employee of the council.
The code of conduct applies to all councillors irrespective of the size of the council and number of members. In short it covers the behaviour and disclosure of interests for all town and parish councillors.
The previous code of conduct which covered Town and Parish councillors was repealed and replaced with a system of what is effectively self regulation under the Localism Act 2012.
The old code of conduct was disliked by District and County councillors who felt that it enabled their opponents to hamper their own activities. They had little knowledge or understanding of the activities of town or parish councillors.
When must a parish council have a new code of conduct?
All parish council must have adopted a new code of conduct by or on the 1st July 2012 as the old legislation will be repealed.
Who polices the code of conduct?
This is now largely a post code lottery depending whose code of conduct was adopted. Where a principal authorities code of conduct was adopted it would be the local authorities monitoring officer. The Localism Act 2012 removed the powers of the principal Authority to sanction town or parish councillors.
Where the council drafted and adopted its own code of conduct this is a self regulation scheme dependant upon the council fairly, openly and independently enforcing its own code of conduct.
Failing to disclose a pecuniary interest is now a criminal matter which should be referred to the police.
Disclosure of councillors interests
All councillors are legally required to complete the register of interests. These declarations of interest must be submitted to the principal authority monitoring officer.
The council if it has a website MUST publish each councillors register of interests on it's website. If the council does not have its own website then the register must be published on principal authorities website.
Despite what some principal authorities believe DCLG guidance clearly states these requirements. A link from the town or parish council website to the principal authority website is insufficient.
What is a pecuniary interest?
A pecuniary interest is one which involves not only money but assets, land, tenancies, sponsorship, contracts, investments, local businesses.
What if a Council ignores the code of conduct?
Sadly very little now as there is no independent external overseeing the actions and behaviour of town and parish councillors.
How do I complain about a parish councillor?
Since the Localism Act 2012 complaining about a town or parish councillor is a post code lottery. There is no longer a national body to oversee standards. In theory you should complain to the council itself.
Principal authority monitoring officers have no power to enforce decisions or actions on town or parish councils or councillors.
You may need to contact the monitoring officer at your District or Unitary authority. LA 2012 c7 s28(9)(b) The introduction of the Localism Act 2012 has made this an uncertain matter. Principal Authorities have no power to enforce any decision.
Allegations that a councillor has breached the code of conduct must be made in writing. LA 2012 c7 s28(9)
You should write to the Council concerned explaining the actions of the individual councillor.
A Parish Councillor was abusive to me, how should I complain?
There may be different codes of conduct in place for neighbouring parish councils. When a Town or Parish Councillor signs their Declaration of acceptance of Office there is no longer an undertaking by the councillor to abide by the town or parish councils code of conduct.
Town and parish councils are part of local government and councillors must meet the standards set out in the Nolan principles.
This type of complaint needs to be referred in writing to both the town or parish council and the Monitoring Officer at the District Council or Unitary Authority. It is worth noting that under the new regime the monitoring officer has no powers or sanctions over the councillor or council.
At a Parish Council meeting a Councillor was abusive to the Clerk
Town and Parish Councils whilst being part of local government are also employers. They are subject to all employment legislation as is any other employer. Abuse whether verbal or physical is out place in the home and workplace.
This is unacceptable behaviour and is often the cause for the Parish Clerk’s resignation. Some Parish Councillors do not realise that their ‘robust’ language is upsetting and could easily be construed as bullying.
However this does not mean that the actions of the clerk and work done cannot be challenged. Sometimes poor or under-performing clerks hide behind the code of conduct when their actions or inactions are challenged by councillors. It is a key part of a councillors role to challenge and question work done by the employees. Efforts by employees to stop firm but polite questioning is both wrong and undemocratic..
All councils must have a code of conduct which all councillors are expected to follow. Failure to act quickly and carefully could result in the council facing charges for constructive dismissal. Employment tribunals are both stressful and expensive.
Does the new code of conduct apply to co-opted parish councillors?
Whilst not elected by residents Town and Parish councillors who are co-opted have nearly the same rights as councillors who are elected. Co-option is the legal process followed by councils when what is known as a casual vacancy cannot be filled by election.
A casual vacancy arises when a councillor resigns or dies between ordinary elections. Ordinary elections are held every 4 years. A cop-opted councillor serves for the remainder of the council's term and then stands for election with all the councillors.
The previous code of conduct which covered Town and Parish councillors was repealed and replaced with a system of what is effectively self regulation under the Localism Act 2012. The previous code of conduct had “teeth” and was administered by the principal authority's (A Unitary, District or County Council) monitoring officer.
All councillors are covered by the new code of conduct. It does not matter whether they have been elected at an ordinary election or co-opted in-order to fill a casual vacancy.