MERSEYSIDE FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY
MEMBERS’ CODE OF CONDUCT
GUIDE TO MAKING A COMPLAINT
This guide provides information on making a complaint against certain types of
inappropriate behaviour by Members (elected Councillors appointed by constituent
authorities) and Independent Members of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.
The guide explains:
- who you can complain about;
- what you can complain about; and
- what will happen to your complaint.
If you have any questions or difficulties arising from this guide – for example,
if English is not your first language – then please contact the Democratic
Services section on 0151 296 4113.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority is a stand-alone local authority. As such,
it is required by legislation to adopt a Members’ Code of Conduct. A copy of the
Members’ Code of Conduct as approved by the Authority can be found below and is available on request from:-
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service
Merseyside L30 4YD
Tel: 0151 296 4113
The Authority is made up of a total of 18 elected councillors (Members)
appointed to it by five constituent authorities (Liverpool City Council and the
Metropolitan Borough Councils of Knowsley, Sefton, St. Helens and Wirral). All Members are
required to follow the Authority’s approved Members’ Code of Conduct. This Guide
explains how you can make a complaint to the Authority if you feel that a Member
has failed to follow the Code.
3. Who and What You CAN Complain About?
You can only use this complaints procedure to complain that a Member may have
failed to follow the Authority’s approved Members’ Code of Conduct. Please
remember that a “Member” is an elected councillor appointed to the Authority by
one of its constituent authorities (Liverpool City Council and the Metropolitan
Borough Councils of Knowsley, Sefton, St. Helens and Wirral).
The Code of
Conduct is below and any complaint must be related to an aspect of this Code.
CODE OF CONDUCT
This code applies to you as a member of this
authority when you act in your role as a member and it is your responsibility to
comply with the provisions of this Code
You are a representative of this
authority and the public will view you as such therefore your actions impact on
how the authority as a whole is viewed and your actions can have both positive
and negative impacts on the authority.
This Code is based upon the “Nolan
Principals-the seven principles of public life” which are set out at Appendix 1.
In this Code:-
“Meeting” means any meeting of:
(a) the authority;
(b) the Executive Leadership Board of the authority;
(c) any of the authority’s
or its executives committees, sub-committees, joint committees or other
whether or not the press and public are excluded from the meeting in
question by virtue of a resolution of members
“Member” includes a co-opted
member and an appointed member.
1. When acting in your role
as a member of the authority:
1.1 DO treat others with respect
1.2 DO NOT conduct yourself in a manner which is contrary to the Authority’s duty to
promote and maintain high standards of conduct of members
1.3 DO NOT disclose
information given to you in confidence by anyone, or information acquired by you
which you believe, or ought reasonably to be aware, is of a confidential nature,
(i) you have the consent of a person authorised to give it;
you are required by law to do so;
(iii) 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
(a) reasonable and in the public interest; and
(b) made in good
faith and in compliance with the reasonable requirements of the authority; and
(c) you have consulted the Monitoring Officer prior to its release
1.4 DO NOT
prevent another person from gaining access to information to which that person
is entitled by law.
2. When using or authorising the use by others of the
resources of the authority-
2.1. DO act in accordance with the authority’s
reasonable requirements including the requirements of the authority’s ICT policy
and the policies (attached to the Authority’s Constitution), copies of which
have been provided to you and which you are deemed to have read;
2.2. DO make
sure that such resources are not used improperly for political purposes
(including party political purposes); and
2.3. DO have regard to any applicable
Local Authority Code of Publicity made under the Local Government Act 1986.
3. As a public figure, your public role may, at times, overlap with
your personal and/or professional life and interests however when performing
your public role as a member, DO act solely in terms of the public interest and
DO NOT act in a manner to gain financial or other material benefits for
yourself, your family, your friends, your employer or in relation to your
4. You are required to register “pecuniary and other
interests” (subject to these not being sensitive). The Relevant Authorities
(Disclosable Pecuniary Interests) Regulations 2012 provide for the interests
that must be disclosed and these are laid out in Appendix 3 of this Code)
Failure to declare or register a pecuniary interest will be a criminal offence
if this is done without a reasonable excuse. If you knowingly or recklessly
provide false or misleading information about a pecuniary interest this will
also be a criminal offence.
5. There will be no requirement for you to declare
or register any gifts and hospitality; (subject to any future Regulations)
however DO NOT accept any gifts in excess of £50.00 (fifty pounds).
6. At a meeting where such issues arise, DO declare any
personal and/or professional interests relating to your public duties and DO
take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public
7. Certain types of decisions, including those relating to a
permission, licence, consent or registration for yourself, your friends, your
family members, your employer or your business interests, are so closely tied to
your personal and/or professional life that your ability to make a decision in
an impartial manner in your role as a member may be called into question and in
turn raise issues about the validity of the decision of the authority. DO NOT
become involved in these decisions any more than a member of the public in the
same personal and/or professional position as yourself is able to be and DO NOT
vote in relation to such matters.
8. DO NOT improperly use knowledge gained
solely as a result of your role as a member for the advancement of yourself,
your friends, your family members, your employer or your business interests.
Pre-determination or bias
9. Where you have been involved in campaigning in your
political role on an issue which does not impact on your personal and/or
professional life you should not be prohibited from participating in a decision
in your political role as member, however DO NOT place yourself under any
financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might
seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties.
making a decision, DO consider the matter with an open mind and on the facts
before the meeting at which the decision is to be taken.
Appendix 1 - THE SEVEN
PRINCIPLES OF PUBLIC LIFE
SELFLESSNESS Holders of public office should act
solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain
financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their
INTEGRITY Holders of public office should not place themselves under
any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that
might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
OBJECTIVITY In carrying out public business, including making public
appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and
benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the
public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their
OPENNESS Holders of public office should be as open as possible about
all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their
decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly
HONESTY Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private
interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any
conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and
Where the decision referred to in Clause 7 above relates to one of the
functions of the authority set out below, and the condition which follows that
function does not apply to you when making that decision, you may participate in
(i) housing, where you are a tenant of your authority unless those
functions relate particularly to your tenancy or lease;
(ii) school meals or
school transport and travelling expenses, where you are a parent or guardian of
a child in full time education, or a parent governor of a school unless it
relates particularly to the school which the child attends,
(iii) statutory sick
pay under Part XI of the School Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992,
where you are in receipt of, or are entitled to the receipt of such pay;
allowance, payment or indemnity given to members;
(v) any ceremonial honour
given to members; and
(vi) setting council tax or a precept under the Local
Government Finance Act 1992
DISCLOSABLE PECUNIARY INTERESTS (Appendix 3)
1. Employment, office, trade, profession or vocation
employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for profit or gain
Any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other
than from the Authority) made or provided within the previous 12 months in
respect of any expenses incurred by a Member in carrying out duties as a member,
or towards the Member’s election expenses. This includes any payment or
financial benefit from a Trade Union
Any contact made between the
their spouse or civil partner
a person living
with the Members as husband or wife, or
someone with whom the Members is
living as if they were civil partners and the Members is aware that the other
person has an interest
under which goods or services are to be
provided or works executed and which has not been fully discharged
beneficial interest in land which is within the Authority’s area
licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy land in the Authority’s area
for a month or longer
6. Corporate Tenancies
Any tenancy where, to the Member’s
knowledge, the landlord is the Authority and the tenant is a body in which the
Members or one of persons mentioned above has a beneficial interest
Any beneficial interest in securities of a body where the Member
knows that the body has a place of business or land in the Authority’s area and
the total nominal value of the securities is more than £25,000 (or one hundredth
of the issued share capital)
4. What CANNOT be dealt with under this procedure
This procedure cannot be used for:
- Complaints where a Member is not named;
- Complaints that are NOT in writing;
- Incidents or actions that are not covered
by the Authority’s approved Members’ Code of Conduct (e.g. that the complaint
concerns acts carried out in the Member’s private life UNLESS, in certain
circumstances, the act constitutes a criminal offence for which the Member has
- Incidents that are about a fault in the way the Authority has
or has not done something. This is known as maladministration and may be a
matter for the Local Government Ombudsman;
- Complaints about people employed by
this Authority. There is a separate procedure for complaints against employees,
which can be found on our website
that happened before OR after the person complained of was a Member of the
- complaints about the way in which the Authority conducts and
records its meetings.
5. How Do I Make a Complaint?
Your complaint MUST be in
writing – this includes fax and electronic submissions. If, however, this would
be difficult for you (for example because of a disability or if English is not
your first language) then please contact Democratic Services (whose contact
details are above).
A complaints form is available on the Authority website
(http://www.merseyfire.gov.uk/aspx/pages/complaints/complaints.aspx ) or
on request from the Democratic Services section
(firstname.lastname@example.org). If you wish to make a complaint you are
encouraged to use this form although you may prefer to write a letter setting
out your complaint. If you choose to write a letter, it is important that you
include in it ALL of the following information:
- your name, address and other
contact details (telephone number(s), e-mail address etc);
- your status (e.g.
member of the public; local authority member; monitoring officer; Member of
- for the purposes of the Authority’s ethnic monitoring, brief
details of your ethnic origin (e.g. British; Irish; Other White Background;
White and Black Caribbean etc);
- the name of the Member of the Fire and Rescue
Authority who the complaint is about;
- details of the alleged misconduct with,
where possible, dates, witness details and other supporting information.
Please note that your identity will normally be disclosed to the Member about
whom you are complaining. This information may, however, be withheld from that
Member in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the Audit
Sub-Committee if it considers that following criteria are met:
- you have reasonable grounds for believing that you will be at risk of physical harm if your identity is disclosed; and/or
- you are an officer (i.e. employee of the Authority
or a constituent authority) who works closely with the Member
who is the subject of the complaint and you are afraid of the consequences to your
employment or of losing your job if your identity is disclosed; and/or
- you suffer from a serious medical condition
and that there are medical risks associated with your identity being disclosed.
In this event, the Audit Sub-Committee will require medical evidence of your
6. Anonymous Complaints
Anonymous complaints will only be referred by the Audit Sub-Committee
for investigation or some other form of action if the complaint includes photographic
evidence indicating an exceptionally serious or significant matter.
7. What will happen to my complaint?
On receiving your complaint , the monitoring officer will acknowledge it and
refer it to the Audit Sub-Committee to reach a decision, within an average of
working days, on what should happen with the complaint. The Audit Sub-Committee
us required to reach one of the three following decisions on a complaint about a
Member’s actions in relation to the Authority’s approved Members’ Code of
- to refer the complaint to the Authority’s Monitoring Officer for
- that no action should be taken in respect of the complaint;
- to uphold the complaint and refer it to the Executive Leadership Board for
determination of an approval sanction.
Such meetings of the Audit Sub-Committee are
CLOSED meetings and are not subject to the notice and publicity requirements
under Part 5 of the Local Government Act 1972.
8. How will the Audit
Sub-Committee make its decision?
(a) Initial Tests
Before any other assessment
of the complaint begins, the Audit Sub-Committee will need to be satisfied that
the complaint meets ALL of the following tests:
- it is a complaint against one
or more named Members of the Authority;
- the named Member was in office at the
time of the alleged conduct and the Code of Conduct was in force at the time;
- the complaint, if proven, would be a breach of the Code under which the Member
was operating at the time of the alleged misconduct.
If the complaint fails one
or more of these tests it cannot be investigated as a breach of the Code and you
will be informed either that more information is needed (in which case someone will
call contract you about theis) or that no further action will be taken in respect of your
(b) Other Criteria
If your complaint meets the above tests, it may be
that the Audit Sub-Committee may still decide to take no further action in
respect of your complaint if one or more of the following criteria apply:
complaint falls within any of the areas that CANNOT be dealt with under this
procedure, as set out in Section 4 of this guide;
- your complaint is about someone who is no longer a Member of
this Authority But is a Member of another Authority. In this case, the Audit
Sub-Committee may decide to refer your complaint to the monitoring Officer of
the other authority concerned;
- your complaint has been the subject of an
investigation or other action relating to the Code of Conduct, or by other
regulatory authorities, and there is nothing to be gained by further action
- your complaint is about something that happened so long ago that
there would be little or no benefit in taking action now;
- your complaint is
considered to be not sufficiently serious to warrant further action;
complaint appears to be simply malicious, politically motivated or
9. What can I do if the Audit Sub-Committee decides, at first not
to uphold and take no further action on my complaint?
You are entitled to
request an appeal of a decision of the Audit Sub-Committee to take no further
action after giving initial consideration to your complaint. A decision by the
Audit Sub-Committee to take no further action is the ONLY decision about which
you can request an appeal.
If you wish to request an appeal you MUST do this IN
WRITING not more than twenty working days after the date of the notice provided
to you notifying you of the initial decision to take no further action.
appeal request complying with this will be carried out by the Executive
Leadership Board of the Authority made up of different Members to those on the
Audit Sub-Committee who made the initial decision. The appeal MUST be undertaken
within a maximum of three months from the date of receiving the request,
although the Authority will aim to complete the appeal within an average of
twenty working days.
In considering a valid appeal request, the Executive
Leadership Board will apply the same initial tests and assessment criteria as
set out in Section 8 of this guide and will have available to it the same
decisions as are available to the Audit Sub-Committee (see Section 7 of this
guide) EXCEPT that there will be no further right of appeal in the event of the
Executive Leadership Board deciding that no further action should be taken.
What if my complaint is to be investigated?
An investigation will be undertaken
within the next 28 days. You will be informed of this process. The Executive
Leadership Board will then hear the matter within a further 14 days and the decision of
the Executive Leadership Board will be provided to you and the elected Member
you have complained about, within the next 7 working days. The decision of the
Executive Leadership Board will be final.
11. How will I be notified of the
decision of the Audit Sub-Committee or the Executive Leadership Board?
provide you with a written notice of the decision. We will aim to do this within
five working days of the date of the meeting of the Audit Sub-Committee or the
Executive Leadership Board at which the decision was made. The notice will:
- in relation to a request for further information by the Audit Sub
Committee, summarises the information required to ask for this to be provided by letter or telephone.
relation to a decision to take no further action, summarise the nature of the
complaint and the reason(s) for deciding to take no further action. An Audit
Sub-Committee decision notice to take no further action will also give details
of the right to request an appeal decision;
- in relation to a decision to refer
a matter to the Monitoring Officer of the Authority, summarise the nature of the
- in the case of a referral to the Monitoring Officer for
investigation, will summarise the potential breaches of the Code to which the
conduct as set out in the complaint refers and will indicate how the
investigation process will be conducted;
- to which the conduct as set out in the complaint refers,
will indicate what the other course of action is and, if appropriate, indicate
what allowance is made for your involvement in the other course of action;