Little Smeaton Parish Council
Code of Conduct
(Adapted from the NALC Model Code of Conduct 2020)
For the purposes of this Code of Conduct, a “councillor” means a member or co-opted member of a local authority. A “co-opted member” is defined in the Localism Act 2011 Section 27(4) as “a person who is not a member of the authority but who a) is a member of any committee or sub-committee of the authority, or; b) is a member of, and represents the authority on, any joint committee or joint subcommittee of the authority; and who is entitled to vote on any question that falls to be decided at any meeting of that committee or sub-committee”.
Purpose of the Code of Conduct
The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to assist councillors, in modelling the behaviour that is expected of them, to provide a personal check and balance, and to set out the type of conduct that could lead to action being taken. It is also to protect councillors, the public, local authority officers and the reputation of local government. It sets out general principles of conduct expected of all councillors and specific obligations in relation to standards of conduct. The LGA encourages the use of support, training and mediation prior to action being taken using the Code. The fundamental aim of the Code is to create and maintain public confidence in the role of councillor and local government.
The Nolan Principles of Public Life
The behaviour of those holding public office should always be governed by the seven principles of public life, known as the Nolan Principles. These are:
• Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
• Integrity: 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 disclose and resolve any interests and relationships.
• Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
• Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
• Openness: 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.
• Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.
• Leadership: 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.
In terms of general conduct this means that as a Little Smeaton Parish Councillor you must:
Treat other councillors, employees, partners and members of the public with respect. Respect means politeness and courtesy in behaviour, speech, and in the written word. Debate and having different views are all part of a healthy democracy. As a councillor, you can express, challenge, criticise and disagree with views, ideas, opinions and policies in a robust but civil manner. You should not, however, subject individuals, groups of people or organisations to personal attack. In your contact with the public, you should treat them politely and courteously. Rude and offensive behaviour lowers the public’s expectations and confidence in councillors. In return, you have a right to expect respectful behaviour from the public. If members of the public are being abusive, intimidatory or threatening you are entitled to stop any conversation or interaction in person or online and report them to the local authority, the relevant social media provider or the police. This also applies to fellow councillors, where action could then be taken under the Councillor Code of Conduct, or to employees of the Parish Council.
Not bully, harass and discriminate against any person. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) characterises bullying as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying might be a regular pattern of behaviour or a one-off incident, happen face-to-face, on social media, in emails or phone calls, happen in the workplace or at work social events and may not always be obvious or noticed by others. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 defines harassment as conduct that causes alarm or distress or puts people in fear of violence and must involve such conduct on at least two occasions. It can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a person in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person. Unlawful discrimination is where someone is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics are specific aspects of a person's identity defined by the Equality Act 2010. They are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The Equality Act 2010 places specific duties on local authorities. Councillors have a central role to play in ensuring that equality issues are integral to the local authority's performance and strategic aims, and that there is a strong vision and public commitment to equality across public service.
Be Impartial. As a councillor you must not compromise, or attempt to compromise, the impartiality of anyone who works for, or on behalf of, the Parish Council. The Clerk works for the Council as a whole and must be politically neutral. They should not be coerced or persuaded to act in a way that would undermine their neutrality. You can question the Clerk or any other employee, in order to understand, for example, their reasons for proposing to act in a particular way, or the content of a report that they have written. However, you must not try and force them to act differently, change their advice, or alter the content of that report, if doing so would prejudice their professional integrity.
Respect Confidentiality and access to information. As a councillor you must respect the confidentiality of information given to you in confidence by anyone or acquired by you which you believe, or ought reasonably to be aware, is of a confidential nature, unless you have received the consent of a person authorised to give it; are required by law to do so; the disclosure is made to a third party for the purpose of obtaining professional legal advice provided that the third party agrees not to disclose the information to any other person; or the disclosure is reasonable and in the public interest; made in good faith and in compliance with the reasonable requirements of the local authority. You should not use knowledge gained solely as a result of your role as a councillor for the advancement of yourself, your friends, family, employer or your business interests. You must not prevent anyone from getting information that they are entitled to by law. Local authorities must work openly and transparently, and their proceedings and printed materials are open to the public, except in certain legally defined circumstances. You should work on this basis, but there will be times when it is required by law that discussions, documents and other information relating to or held by the local authority must be treated in a confidential manner. Examples include personal data relating to individuals or information relating to ongoing negotiations.
Disrepute. As a Councillor you must not do anything that might bring the Council or the office of Councillor into disrepute. As a Councillor you are trusted to make decisions on behalf of your community and your actions and behaviour are subject to greater scrutiny than that of ordinary members of the public. You should be aware that your actions might have an adverse impact on you, other councillors and/or your local authority and may lower the public’s confidence in your or your local authority’s ability to discharge your/it’s functions. For example, behaviour that is considered dishonest and/or deceitful could bring the Parish Council into disrepute. You are able to hold the local authority and fellow councillors to account and are able to constructively challenge and express concern about decisions and processes undertaken by the council whilst continuing to adhere to other aspects of this Code of Conduct.
Use of position. As a Councillor you must not use, or attempt to use your position improperly to the advantage of yourself or anyone else.
Use of Local Authority Resources. As a Councillor you must not use any Parish Council resources for personal gain.
Register of Interests. Section 29 of the Localism Act 2011 requires the Clerk to establish and maintain a register of interests of members of the Parish Council. As a Councillor you must declare your interests so that the public, Council employees and fellow councillors know which of your interests might give rise to a conflict of interest. The register is a public document that can be consulted when an issue arises. There is also an opportunity to declare a pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest at the beginning of each meeting.
Gifts and Hospitality. In order to protect your position and the reputation of the Parish Council you should exercise caution in accepting any gifts or hospitality which are offered to you because you are a Councillor. If a gift is accepted (perhaps because it is of small financial value and to refuse would be rude) the Clerk must be informed and the gift registered. Refer to the Gifts and Hospitality Policy for further advice.
It is extremely important for you as a councillor to demonstrate high standards, for you to have your actions open to scrutiny and for you not to undermine public trust in the local authority or its governance. If you do not understand or are concerned about any aspect of the Parish Council processes or regulations you should raise this with the Clerk or the Chairman of the Council.
Policy reviewed July 2021.