Members’ Code of Conduct
Councillors are required to comply with the Members’ Code of Conduct which is included in the Council’s Constitution.
Procedure for dealing with complaints pursuant to the Members’ Code of Conduct
1.1 The procedure to be adopted in dealing with complaints against Councillors under the Members’ Code of Conduct is set out below.
2. Receipt of a complaint
2.1 A complaint should be made in writing, by letter or email, to the Monitoring Officer within 14 days of the alleged breach(es) of the Members’ Code of Conduct. Upon receipt, the Monitoring Officer will forward the complaint to an officer, for the purposes of making an initial assessment of the complaint and the complaint will be acknowledged within three working days.
2.2 The Councillor about whom the complaint is made (“the Subject Member”) will be informed of the complaint and will be afforded the opportunity to make representations concerning the complaint within 10 working days from notification.
3. Conflicts of interest
3.1 Where the Monitoring Officer considers that he/she may have a material potential conflict of interest, he/she shall arrange for another senior officer, deputy Monitoring Officer or Monitoring Officer from another authority to undertake his/her role in this procedure.
4. Initial assessment of complaints
4.1 The officer responsible for initially assessing a complaint will take into account both the content of the original complaint and any representations from the Subject Member.
4.2 The officer responsible will also consider the complaint against the public interest criteria outlined under paragraph 10 of the Members’ Code of Conduct. No further action will be taken by the Monitoring Officer if the complaint fails one or more of the public interest criteria as outlined in the Code. If all elements of the public interest criteria are passed, the complaint will continue to be reviewed.
4.3 The officer will make any further enquiries, as necessary, following which, the officer will determine in their opinion whether or not there appears to have been a breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct. This decision will be made within 28 days of receipt of the complaint.
4.4 If it appears to the officer that there has been no breach (or breaches), the officer will notify in writing the complainant and the Subject Member of this initial assessment. The complainant will be informed of their right to have the initial assessment decision reviewed by the Monitoring Officer.
5. Review of an initial assessment decision
5.1 Requests for review of the initial assessment decision must be made in writing by letter or email to the Monitoring Officer within 10 days from the date on the decision letter or email.
5.2 Upon receipt of a review request, the Monitoring Officer will conduct a review of the initial assessment decision in consultation with one of the Independent Persons, then make a decision.
5.3 The Monitoring Officer will inform the complainant and the Subject Member in writing of the decision within 28 days of receipt of the request for review. There will be no further internal appeal from the Monitoring Officer’s decision.
6. Potential breach of the Code of Conduct
6.1 If the officer undertaking the initial assessment of a complaint is of the view that there is a potential breach or breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct, the matter shall be referred to the Monitoring Officer. In referring the matter to the Monitoring Officer, the officer undertaking the initial assessment of the complaint must set out in writing the reasons for the referral.
6.2 The Monitoring Officer, in consultation with one of the Independent Persons, will decide whether or not the complaint requires a formal investigation. In making this decision, the Monitoring Officer will consider whether it is in the public interest to pursue a formal investigation. In doing so, they will consider factors including:
- the complaint is a ‘repeat complaint’, unless supported by new or further evidence substantiating or indicating that the complaint is exceptionally serious or significant;
- no or insufficient information/evidence to substantiate the complaint has been submitted by the Complainant;
- the complaint is malicious, trivial, politically motivated or ‘tit-for-tat’;
- the Complainant is unreasonably persistent, malicious and/or vexatious;
- the complaint is relatively minor and dealing with the complaint would have a disproportionate effect on both public money and officers’ and Members’ time;
- the circumstances have changed so much that there would be little benefit arising from an investigation or other action;
- the complaint has been the subject of an investigation or other action and there is nothing more to be gained by further action being taken;
- the complaint is such that it is unlikely that an investigation will be able to come to a firm conclusion on the matter, e.g where there is no firm evidence on the matter or the alleged misconduct took place so long ago that the complaint should not be pursued, other than when considered appropriate by the Monitoring Officer;
- the complaint is about a deceased person;
- the complaint is about a person who is no longer a Member of the Council or Co-opted Member.
6.3 If, following consultation with one of the Independent Persons, the Monitoring Officer determines that a formal investigation is not warranted, an informal resolution will be explored with both the complainant and the Subject Member. Informal resolution of the complaint will, wherever reasonably practicable, be completed within 14 days of the initial assessment decision where a potential breach is established. If the matter is resolved informally, then the complaint will not proceed any further and the complainant and the Subject Member will be notified in writing.
6.4 Example of actions that may be required by the Subject Member to resolve the complaint informally may include, but not limited to, render an apology, undergo training, retract relevant information etc.
7. Formal investigation of complaints
7.1 In cases where the Monitoring Officer considers a complaint warrants a formal investigation, he/she will appoint an officer or person outside the Council to carry out the investigation. Upon conclusion, the officer (or external person) will provide the Monitoring Officer with a report setting out the officer’s findings and whether or not, in the officer’s view, there have been any breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct. The Monitoring Officer will then share this report with one of the Independent Persons and seek their view.
7.2 The investigation will be carried out and the report provided to the Monitoring Officer within 42 days of the investigation being commissioned by the Monitoring Officer.
7.3 Following receipt of the report, the Monitoring Officer will determine, in consultation with the Independent Person, whether or not there has been any breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
7.4 If the Monitoring Officer concludes there has been no breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct, the complainant and the Subject Member will be notified in writing.
7.5 The complainant will have a right of appeal of the Monitoring Officer’s decision to the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee. The appeal should be forwarded to the Monitoring Officer within 14 days from the date of the notification that a breach of the Code of Conduct has not been established.
7.6 If the Monitoring Officer concludes that there has been a breach or breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct committed by the Subject Member, consideration will then be given by the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Independent Person, whether or not an informal resolution between the parties would be appropriate.
7.7 Where an informal resolution is considered appropriate, this will be discussed with the complainant and the Subject Member. Should an informal resolution be agreed, the complaint will not proceed any further. Should either the complainant or the Subject Member not agree the proposed informal resolution, the matter will then be referred, on appeal, to the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee for a final decision in the matter.
7.8 The Members’ Code of Conduct Committee shall reach a decision within 42 days of the matter being referred to it.
7.9 In cases where the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Independent Person, considers that there has been a potential breach or breaches of the Code of Conduct and that the matter should be referred direct to the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee, the complainant and the Subject Member will be notified of the position.
8. Hearings before the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee
8.1 Where the Members’ Code of Conduct Committee meet to decide whether or not there have been any breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct, or on appeal by either of the parties as set out above, the decision of that Committee shall be final. This also applies to any sanctions imposed by the Committee for any such breaches of the Code found by the Committee to have been committed by the Subject Member.
8.2 A formal minute or Decision Notice will be recorded setting out the decision of the Committee. The formal notice shall be published on the Council’s website as soon as possible and shall include the following details:
8.2.1 A brief statement of the facts;
8.2.2 The provisions of the Code of Conduct engaged by the allegations;
8.2.3 The view of the Independent Person,
8.2.4 The reasoning of the decision maker, and
8.2.5 Any sanction(s) applied.
9. Publication of information relating to Code of Conduct complaints
9.1 The Council shall publish annually:
(a) The number of complaints received under this Code;
(b) What the complaints broadly relate to;
(c) The outcome of those complaints, including if they are rejected as trivial or vexatious; and
(d) Any sanctions applied.
9.2 Where the Code of Conduct Committee makes a decision on an allegation of misconduct following a formal investigation, a Decision Notice shall be published as soon as possible on its website. The Decision Notice shall include:
(a) A brief statement of facts;
(b) the provisions of the Code engaged by the allegations;
(c) the view of the Independent Person;
(d) the reasons for the Committee’s decision;
(e) any sanction(s) applied.
9.3 This Code shall be distributed to all Members of the Council at least on an annual basis and any time it has been revised.
Revised March 2022
Complain about a Councillor
Bexley Councillors are required to comply with the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct. If you believe that a councillor has breached the Members’ Code of Conduct and would like to make a complaint, please write to the Council's Monitoring Officer, either:
- by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or
- by letter to The Monitoring Officer, London Borough of Bexley, Legal Services Department, Civic Offices, 2 Watling Street, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7AT
Receipt of your complaint will be acknowledged and you will be kept informed of the progress of your complaint.
The procedure to be adopted by the Council when dealing with complaints against Councillors under the Members' Code of Conduct is set out in the Procedure for dealing with complaints pursuant to the Bexley Members' Code of Conduct.
A decision regarding your complaint will be reached based on the information given, whether it can be resolved informally or requires a formal investigation. Where the decision is that there is no breach of the Code, you have the right to request a review of that decision by the Monitoring Officer, whose decision will be final.
If the matter is considered to require a full investigation and/or the matter cannot be resolved informally, the Monitoring Officer may refer the matter for consideration to a sub-committee of the Council's Members' Code of Conduct Committee, whose decision will be final.
The Members' Code of Conduct Committee
The Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct Committee is responsible for overseeing the operation of the Code of Conduct and reviewing the effectiveness of standards, procedures and policies.
A sub-committee of the Council's Members' Code of Conduct Committee considers the most serious complaints about Councillors.
The Members’ Code of Conduct Committee receives reports on all complaints submitted regularly and a notice of any decision made by a Sub Committee of the Code of Conduct Committee on any complaint is published.
|Date||Complainant||Description of complaint||Outcome|
|25 March 2022||Member of the public||Complaint alleging that a Councillor’s social media comments on twitter were a proliferation of information disseminated that is alleged to amount to harassment and bullying.
The complaint was not upheld. The tweet was not posted whilst undertaking Council business, nor posted by the Councillor in the capacity as a Councillor.
|Complaint not upheld|
|18 May 2022||Council staff – workers’ representative groups||The re-publishing of a poem by a Councillor was alleged to promote negative views about equalities, was insulting to people who identify as having protected characteristics, that the poem was humiliating and denigrating to those within the group. The re-posting of the tweet was alleged to breach the requirement relating to treating Councillors, members of the public and staff with respect. Further, the requirement relating to the need to avoid bullying and harassment of any person and the need to promote equalities and not discriminate unlawfully against any person was alleged to have been breached.
The conclusion reached was that the Code of Conduct had no application.
The retweets do not directly relate to any individuals, nor relate to Council business. It was concluded that the retweet did not show that the Councillor failed to promote equalities and neither did it discriminate unlawfully against any person.
|Complaint not upheld|
|27 July 2022||Member of the public against various Councillors||A complaint from a member of the public that various Councillors had hacked into his private data - i.e., emails, phone records, financial data, WhatsApp data, text messages, photos, medical data and internet usage.
Complaint was rejected under the public interest criteria within Code of Conduct on the basis that:
(1) no or insufficient information/evidence to substantiate the complaint has been submitted by the complainant;
(2) the complainant is unreasonably persistent, malicious and/or vexatious
|The complaint was rejected - insufficient information|
|11 July 2022||Member of the public||The Complainant alleged that the statement “Every one of our 2018 pledges was delivered in full, but so have all the pledges we have made since 2006” is a claim that is demonstrably false; and that the Subject Member knew this or should have reasonably known this to be false.
It was alleged that the Councillor breached the following general principles of the Code relating to the need for Councillors to act with Integrity and Honesty; and to lead by example and act in a way that secures public confidence in the role of a Councillor.
|Complaint not upheld.
The Complaint was referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who decided that the complaint would not be investigated because the Ombudsman were unlikely to find fault by the Council.
|12 August 2022||Member of the public||Allegation relating to comments made about gifts and hospitality. The Complainant alleges that the Code of Conduct entails “the presumption should always be not to accept significant gifts or hospitality”.
A conclusion was reached that the member of the public’s allegation and interpretation of the Code is not fully in alignment with the Code. Councillors must take a reasonable approach when considering whether to accept a gift/hospitality that arises because of their role as a Councillor.
Applying the public interest test, no further action was taken because the complaint was considered minor and undertaking an initial assessment and a further review would have a disproportionate effect on both public money and officers’ and Members’ time.
|Complaint not upheld|
|10 October 2022||Members of the public - various||Various complaints from members of the public regarding a Councillor’s comment, namely:
“Can we send her back and get our money back”
In response to the twitter post:
“Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe begins her activism; we knew it wouldn’t be long. Watch Labour snap her up for a seat in the HoC.”
The complainants allege that the tweet breaches the Members’ Code of Conduct for being racist and bringing the Council into disrepute because the Councillor’s twitter handle noted the prefix “Cllr”.
The conclusion reached at the initial assessment was that the Code does not apply though the tweet is clearly disrespectful, potentially calls into dispute the maker (but crucially not the office) and failed to show respect and consideration for others.
One of the Complainants asked for the initial assessment to be reviewed with supporting information, reference to Councillors’ Social Media Protocol and the LGA Guidance regarding the Model Code of Conduct upon which the Council’s Code is based.
Review of initial assessment
|Complaint concluded under informal resolution|
|26 January 2023||Member of the public||A member of the public lodged a complaint regarding the content of a social media post relating to the Sidcup Manor House Temporary Use Project.
The Complainant raised concerns about the Councillor’s comments that could have a negative influence on the decision-making process for the Manor House Temporary Occupation in addition to portraying a negative public impression to local residents and businesses.
The Councillor was not aware of the company referred to and the Twitter handle alleged to have been inappropriately referred to by the Councillor. The Councillor was also not involved in the decision regarding the temporary letting of the site.
It was considered that a breach of the Code was unlikely to be established.
The public interest test was applied and it was considered that a further review or investigated was not warranted. Where a complaint is relatively minor and dealing with the complaint would have a disproportionate effect on both public money and officers’ and members’ time, no further action will be taken by the Monitoring Officer.
|Complaint not upheld|