Arrangements for dealing with standards allegations

Bedford Brough Council's arrangements for dealing with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011.

1. Introduction

Bedford Borough Council is committed to ensuring that its Members maintain the highest possible standards of conduct and has adopted a Code of Conduct which sets out the standards of behaviour it expects all Members of the Council to observe whenever they are carrying out Council business.

Codes of Conduct have also been adopted by all Parish Councils in the Borough’s area. The Borough Council’s Code of Conduct is available on the Council’s website at or can be obtained using the telephone and email contacts given below. Parish Council’s Codes of Conduct are available on their websites or from the Parish Clerk.

We hope that the standards we set mean that it will never be necessary for you to complain about the way in which a Member behaves. However, we recognise that sometimes standards can fall short of what would reasonably be expected. These arrangements tell you what to do if you want to make a complaint that a Councillor has breached their Code of Conduct and how the Council will deal with it.

2. Context

These “Arrangements” set out how you may make a complaint that an elected or co-opted member of Bedford Borough Council or of a town or parish council within its area has failed to comply with their Council’s Code of Conduct, and sets out how the Council will deal with allegations of a failure to comply with its Code of Conduct.

Under Section 28(6) and (7) of the Localism Act 2011, the Borough Council must have in place “arrangements” under which allegations that:

  • a member or co-opted member of the Council, or
  • a member or co-opted member of a town or parish council within its area, or
  • of a Committee or Sub-Committee of any such Council, has failed to comply with their Council’s Code of Conduct can be investigated and decisions made on such allegations

The arrangements must provide for the Council to appoint at least one Independent Person, whose views it must seek before taking a decision on an allegation which it has decided shall be investigated, and whose views may be sought by the Council at any other stage, or by a member or or co-opted member of the Borough Council or any town or parish council in its area against whom an allegation has been made.

3. The Code of Conduct

The Council has adopted a Code of Conduct for Members. The Code is available for inspection on the Council’s website and at Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford MK42 9AP. (A paper copy of the code may be obtained by telephoning 01234 228903, or by sending an email to:

Each Town and Parish council is also required to adopt a Code of Conduct. If you wish to inspect a Town/Parish Council’s Code of Conduct, you should inspect any website they operate or request the Town/Parish Clerk to allow you to inspect their Council’s Code of Conduct. Town/ Parish Clerk contact details may be obtained from Bedford Borough Council (01234 228903), or by sending an email to:

4. How to make a complaint

If you wish to make a complaint that an elected or co-opted Member of  Bedford Borough Council or any of the Town/Parish Councils in its area has  breached their Council’s Code of Conduct , you need to send your complaint, in writing, to the following address:

The Monitoring Officer
Bedford Borough Council
Borough Hall
Cauldwell Street
MK42 9AP

The Monitoring Officer is a senior officer of the Borough Council who has statutory responsibility for administering the system for dealing with complaints of member misconduct and is also responsible for maintaining a register of members interests.

In order to ensure that the Monitoring Officer has all the information which he needs to be able to process your complaint, please use the Council’s complaint form, which can be downloaded from the Council’s website, or is available on request from Reception at Borough Hall or by emailing If you have any questions or difficulties filling in the complaint form, please contact the Council’s Monitoring Officer by telephoning 01234 276585 or emailing

Please make sure that you provide us with your name and a contact or email address, so that we can acknowledge receipt of your complaint and keep you informed of its progress. If you want to keep your name and address confidential, please indicate this in the space provided on the complaint form.

We will then not disclose your name and address to the member against whom you have made a complaint, without your prior consent. Please note that the Council does not normally investigate anonymous complaints, unless there is a clear public interest in doing so. Please send any documents that support your complaint with your form. Please let us know if you want us to return any of these documents to you.

If you cannot write your complaint in English, we can arrange to have it translated for you.

The Monitoring Officer will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within five working days of receiving it, and will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint.

5. Will your complaint be investigated?

The Monitoring Officer will review every complaint received and, after consultation with the Independent Person (see paragraph 12 of these arrangements for further information about the Independent Person), take a decision as to whether it merits formal investigation. This decision will normally be taken within 14 days of receipt of your complaint. Where the Monitoring Officer has taken a decision, s/he will inform you of his/her decision and the reasons for that decision.

In some circumstances, the Monitoring Officer may decide that it would be more appropriate for an Assessment Panel of the Council’s Standards Committee to decide whether or not a complaint should be investigated, in which case you will be advised that this is happening. (note: the Assessment Panel comprises three Members of the Council’s Standards Committee drawn from at least two of the Political Groups on the Council).

If the Monitoring Officer requires additional information in order to come to a decision, s/he may contact you to obtain that information, and/or may also request information from the member against whom your complaint is directed. Where your complaint relates to a Member of a Town or Parish Council, the Monitoring Officer may also inform the Town or Parish Council of your complaint and seek their views before deciding whether the complaint merits formal investigation.

In appropriate cases, the Monitoring Officer may seek to resolve the complaint informally, without the need for a formal investigation. Such informal resolution may involve the member accepting that his/her conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology, or other remedial action by the Council. Where the Member or the Council makes a reasonable offer of local resolution, but you are not willing to accept that offer, the Monitoring Officer will take account of this in deciding whether the complaint merits formal investigation.

If your complaint identifies criminal conduct or a breach of other regulation by any person, the Monitoring Officer has the power to call in the Police and/or other relevant regulatory agencies.

6. How is the investigation conducted?

The Council has adopted a procedure for the investigation of misconduct complaints.

If the Monitoring Officer decides that a complaint merits formal investigation, s/he will appoint an Investigating Officer, who may be another senior officer of  the Council, an officer of another Council or an external investigator. The  Investigating Officer will decide whether s/he needs to meet or speak to you to  understand the nature of your complaint and so that you can explain your  understanding of events and suggest what documents they need to see, and  who they need to interview.

The Investigating Officer will normally write to the member against whom you  have complained, provide them with a copy of your complaint, and ask them  to provide their explanation of events, and to identify what documents the  Investigating Officer needs to see and who they need to interview. In  exceptional cases, where it is appropriate to keep your identity confidential or disclosure of details of the complaint to the Member might prejudice the investigation, your name and address can be deleted from the papers given to the Member, or notifying the Member can be delayed until the investigation  has progressed sufficiently.

At the end of the investigation, the Investigating Officer will produce a draft  report and will send copies of that draft report, in confidence, to you and to the member concerned, to give you both an opportunity to identify any matter in  that draft report which you disagree with or which you consider requires more  consideration.

Having received and taken account of any comments which you and/or the Member about whom you have complained, may make on the draft report, the Investigating Officer will then send their final report to the Monitoring Officer.

7. What happens if the Investigating Officer concludes that there is no evidence of a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Monitoring Officer will review the Investigating Officer’s report. If s/he is satisfied that the Investigating Officer’s report is sufficient, s/he will write to  you and to the member concerned and to the Town/Parish Council, if your  complaint relates to a Member of a Town or Parish Council, notifying you that s/he is satisfied that no further action is required, and will give you both a copy of the Investigating Officer’s final report. If the Monitoring Officer is not  satisfied that the investigation has been conducted properly, s/he may ask the Investigating Officer to reconsider their report.

8. What happens if the Investigating Officer concludes that there is evidence of a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Monitoring Officer will review the Investigating Officer’s report and will then either send the matter for local hearing before the Hearings Panel or,  after consulting the Independent Person, seek local resolution.

Local resolution

The Monitoring Officer may consider that the matter can reasonably be resolved without the need for a hearing. In such a case, s/he will consult the Independent Person and you as complainant and seek to agree what you consider to be a fair resolution which also helps to ensure higher standards of conduct for the future.

A local resolution may include the member accepting that their conduct was unacceptable and offering an apology, and/or other remedial action by the Council. If the member complies with the suggested resolution, the Monitoring Officer will report the matter to the Standards Committee and, where the complaint is about a member of a Town/Parish Council, the Town/Parish Council for information, but will take no further action.

However, if you tell the Monitoring Officer that any suggested resolution would not be adequate, the Monitoring Officer will refer the matter for a local hearing.

Local hearing

If the Monitoring Officer considers that local resolution is not appropriate, or  you are not satisfied by the proposed resolution, or the member concerned is  not prepared to undertake any proposed remedial action, such as giving an apology, then the Monitoring Officer will submit the Investigating Officer’s report to the Hearings Panel which will conduct a local hearing before deciding whether the member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct and, if so, whether to take any action in respect of the member.

The Council has agreed a procedure for local hearings.

If the Investigating Officer’s report is referred for a local hearing, the  Monitoring Officer will conduct a “pre-hearing process”, requiring the member  to give their response to the Investigating Officer’s report, in order to identify what is likely to be agreed and what is likely to be in contention at the hearing, and the Chair of the Hearings Panel may issue directions as to the manner in which the hearing will be conducted.

At the hearing, the Investigating Officer will present their report, call such witnesses as they consider necessary and make representations to substantiate their conclusion that the member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct. For this purpose, the Investigating Officer may ask you as the complainant to attend and give evidence to the  Hearings Panel. The member will then have an opportunity to give his/her evidence, to call witnesses and to make representations to the Hearings Panel as to why they consider that they did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct.

The Hearings Panel, with the benefit of any advice from the Independent  Person, may conclude that the member did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, and dismiss the complaint. If the Hearings Panel concludes that the member did fail to comply with the Code of Conduct, the Chair will inform the  member of this finding and the Hearings Panel will then consider what action, if any, it should take as a result of the member’s failure to comply with the Code of Conduct. In doing this, the Hearings Panel will give the member an opportunity to make representations to the Panel and will consult the Independent Person. Following this, it will decide what action, if any, to take  in respect of the matter.

9. What action can the Hearings Panel take where a member has failed to comply with the Code of Conduct?

The Council has delegated to the Hearings Panel powers to take action in  respect of individual members as may be necessary to promote and maintain high standards of conduct.

The Hearings Panel may:

  • Censure or reprimand the member
  • Publish its findings in respect of the member’s conduct
  • Report its findings formally to the Council or in the case of a member of a Town or Parish council, to their Town or Parish Council for information
  • Recommend to the member’s Political Group Leader (or in the case of members who are not a member of a political group, recommend to the Council or to Committees) that the Member be removed from any or all Committees or Sub-Committees of the Council
  • Recommend to any Town/Parish Council Member’s own Council that they be removed from any or all Committees or Sub-Committees of their Council
  • Recommend to the Elected Mayor that the member concerned be removed from the Executive, or removed from particular Portfolio responsibilities
  • Instruct the Monitoring Officer or recommend to the relevant Town/Parish Council that they arrange training for the Member;
  • Recommend to the Borough Council, its Elected Mayor or to the relevant Town/Parish Council that the Member be removed, from all outside appointments to which they have been appointed or nominated by the Borough Council or by their Town/Parish Council
  • Recommend to the Elected Mayor or to the Member’s Town/Parish Council that it withdraws facilities provided to the member by the Council, such as a computer, website and/or email and Internet access
  • Exclude, or recommend that the Town/Parish Council exclude, the member from the Council’s offices or other premises, with the exception of meeting rooms when they are attending Council, Executive, Committee and Sub-Committee meetings as either a Member of the body concerned or for the purposes of making representations on behalf of their constituents.

The Hearings Panel has no power to suspend or disqualify any member or to withdraw any of their allowances.

10. What happens at the end of the hearing?

At the end of the hearing, the Chair will announce the decision of the Hearings Panel as to whether the member failed to comply with the Code of Conduct and as to any actions which the Hearings Panel has resolved to take.

As soon as reasonably practicable after the hearing, the Monitoring Officer will prepare a formal decision notice in consultation with the Chair of the Hearings Panel, and send a copy to you, to the member concerned and, where relevant, to their Town/Parish Council. The decision notice will be available for public inspection and will also be reported to the next convenient meeting of the Borough Council.

11. Who are the Hearings Panel?

The Hearings Panel is a Sub-Committee of the Council’s Standards Committee. The Standards Committee has decided that it will comprise three members of the Committee, drawn from at least two different political parties.

 The Independent Person is invited to attend all meetings of the Hearings Panel and his/her views are sought and taken into consideration before the Hearings Panel takes any decision on whether the member’s conduct constitutes a failure to comply with the Code of conduct and as to any action to be taken following a finding of failure to comply with the Code of Conduct.

This is a legal requirement.

12. Who is the Independent Person?

The Independent Person is a person who has applied for the role following advertisement of a vacancy for that post, and is then appointed by a positive vote from a majority of all the members of Council.

No-one can be appointed as an Independent Person if s/he:

  • Is, or has been within the past 5 years, a member, co-opted member or officer of the Borough Council;
  • Is or has been within the past 5 years, a member, co-opted member or officer of a Town/Parish Council within the Bedford Borough area, or
  • Is a relative, or close friend, of a person within paragraph 12.2.1 or 12.2.2 above. For this purpose, “relative” means: 
    • i) A spouse or civil partner;
    • ii) Someone living with the other person as husband and wife or as if they
    • were civil partners;
    • ii) A grandparent of the other person;
    • iv) A lineal descendent of a grandparent of the other person;
    • v) A parent, sibling or child of a person within paragraphs (i) or (ii)
    • vi) A spouse or civil partner of a person within paragraphs (iii), (iv) or (v)
    • Is someone who is living with a person within paragraphs (iii), (iv) or (v) as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners

13. Revision of these arrangements

The Council may by resolution agree to amend these arrangements, and has delegated to the Monitoring Officer, following consultation with the Chair of the Standards Committee, the authority to depart from these arrangements where s/he considers that it is expedient to do so in order to secure the effective and fair consideration of any matter.

14. Appeals

There is no right of appeal for you as complainant or for the member against a decision of the Monitoring Officer or of the Hearings Panel.

If you feel that the authority has failed to deal with your complaint properly, you may make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman here: