Somerset County Council has 55 members (councillors) who are elected every four years. The next elections are due in May 2021. In addition, the Council has some co-opted members (who are not councillors) on its committees.
All members and co-opted members are required to undertake to comply with the Council's Members' Code of Conduct. This ensures high standards of conduct in the way they carry out their duties.
Members' Code of Conduct Requirements
The Code is based on the seven principles of public life, which are set out below. Elected members and co-opted members must have regard to these principles when fulfilling their role.
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must admit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
The Code requires general behaviours and obligations from elected members and co-opted members when undertaking Council business. They must:
- Not unlawfully discriminate against someone
- Treat people with respect
- Not bully any person
- Not intimidate any person involved in any investigation or proceedings about someone's misconduct
- Not do something to prevent those who work for, or on behalf of, the authority from being unbiased
- Not reveal information that was given to them in confidence, or stop someone getting information they are entitled to by law
- Not damage the reputation of their office or authority, where the conduct is linked to their public role and not in their private capacity
- Not use their position improperly, to their own or someone else's advantage or disadvantage
- Not misuse their authority's resources
- Not allow their authority's resources to be misused for the activities of a registered political party
- Register financial or other interests, declare them and withdraw as necessary from meetings, and/or record them as necessary under the requirements of the Code of Conduct
- Register any gifts or hospitality (including the source), that they have received in their role as a member worth over £25. Gifts and hospitality can be registered using this on-line form.
Breaching the Code is a serious matter and, in certain circumstances, can be a criminal offence punishable by a fine and/or disqualification from being a councillor for up to five years.
Your complaint must:
- be about an elected member or a co-opted member of Somerset County Council;
- fall within the scope of the Members' Code of Conduct;
- be made in writing to the Monitoring Officer.
If you are not sure whether or not your complaint falls within these categories, please contact the Monitoring Officer for an informal discussion.
Can I raise a concern without making a formal complaint?
If you think an elected member or co-opted member may have breached the Council's Members' Code of Conduct, it may be possible to deal with your concern satisfactorily without the need to go through the formal procedure. If you would like an informal discussion to explore this possibility, please contact the Monitoring Officer. Doing so will not prejudice your right to make a formal complaint at a later stage.
Monitoring Officer contact details:
Monitoring Officer and Strategic Manager, Governance and Risk
Somerset County Council
What should I do if I want to make a formal complaint?
If you think that an elected member or co-opted member may have breached the Members' Code of Conduct and you wish to make a formal complaint, please complete and submit our Complaint against a Councillor form to the Monitoring Officer. This form is also available in hard copy from the Monitoring Officer. This will ensure that all the information necessary to be able to deal efficiently with your complaint is provided. If you do not wish to use the form, you can also complain in writing by letter, email or fax to the Monitoring Officer. The Complaint against a Councillor form is accompanied by detailed guidance on the complaints procedure.
If you need help in submitting your complaint, please contact the Monitoring Officer. We can also provide support if English is not your first language, or if you have any disability.