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Complaining about councillors and devolved public bodies

This advice applies to Scotland

If you want to complain about the conduct of a councillor or a member of a devolved public body, you can complain to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS).

You can complain if you think that there has been financial misconduct, a breach of confidentiality, inappropriate acceptance of gifts or hospitality, or another breach of a Code of Conduct.

CESPLS can consider complaints about:

CESPLS can also consider some complaints about a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). Find out more about complaining about the conduct of an MSP.

Complaining about devolved public bodies

Public bodies you can complain about

The Standards Commission website lists all of the public bodies that you can complain about to the Commissioner For Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS). The public bodies include:

  • a wide range of national public bodies - like Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland, the Crofting Commission, The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and national park authorities
  • further education colleges
  • NHS boards
  • health and social care integration joint boards
  • regional transport partnerships.

How to complain about devolved public bodies

How you complain about a public body depends on what you are complaining about.

If your complaint is about a breach of a Code of Conduct by a member of a public body

You should complain to CESPLS. You can download a complaint form or upload a complaint on the CESPLS website

What to include in your complaint

Your complaint should include:

  • who you are complaining about
  • the public body they serve on
  • what you are complaining about - include the date of the misconduct and any witnesses
  • any evidence you have - to support your complaint
  • your contact details - name, address, telephone number and email address
  • which part of the Code of Conduct has been breached - if you know this.

You can find a Model Code of Conduct for Members of Devolved Public Bodies on the Scottish Government website.

Find out more about how CESPLS deals with complaints.

If your complaint is about the public appointments process

If you want to complain about the process of appointing someone to a public body, you must first complain to the Scottish Government before you can complain to CESPLS. You can find details of how to complain about the public appointments process on the Scottish Government's public appointments website.

If you are unhappy with a decision made by a public body

If you want to complain about how a decision was made, you may need to use the complaints process for the body that you want to complain about. This often involves using an internal complaints process, with the possibility of complaining to an ombudsman if you are not satisfied with the response.

If you think that in making the decision a member of the public body may have breached a Code of Conduct, you should complain to CESPLS.

If you want to challenge a decision made by a public body as you think it was incorrect, you should check if there is a formal route to challenge its decisions. If there is not, you may need to request a judicial review. You will need to get legal advice if you plan to seek a judicial review.

Find out more about getting legal advice.

Complaining about a councillor

How to complain about a councillor

How you complain about a councillor depends on what you are complaining about.

If your complaint is about a breach of a Code of Conduct by a councillor

You should complain to CESPLS. You can download a complaint form or upload a complaint on the CESPLS website

What to include in your complaint

Your complaint should include:

  • who you are complaining about
  • the council they are a member of
  • what you are complaining about - include the date of the misconduct and any witnesses
  • any evidence you have - to support your complaint
  • your contact details - name, address, telephone number and email address
  • which part of the Code of Conduct has been breached - if you know this.

You can find the Code of Conduct for Councillors on the Scottish Government website.

Find out more about how CESPLS deals with complaints.

If your complaint is about someone who works for a local authority or a council service

If you want to complain about a local authority service, you should first contact the service that you are unhappy with. If your complaint is not resolved by the local authority's complaints procedure, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

You can find more information about how to complain about council services on the Scottish Government website.

If you are unhappy with a decision made by a local authority

If you want to complain about how a decision was made, you should first contact the service that you are unhappy with. If your complaint is not resolved by the local authority's complaints procedure, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

You can find more information about how to complain about council services on the Scottish Government website.

If you think that a councillor may have breached a Code of Conduct, you should complain to CESPLS.

If you want to challenge a decision made by a local authority as you think it was incorrect, you should check if there is a formal route to challenge its decisions. If there is not, you may need to request a judicial review. You will need to get legal advice if you plan to seek a judicial review.

Find out more about getting legal advice.

How the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life deals with complaints

CESPLS will first decide if your complaint is one they can consider. If your complaint is one they can deal with it, they will investigate it and may ask you to provide further evidence.

You can find more details of how your complaint will be dealt with on the CESPLS website.

If CESPLS think that there has been a breach of the relevant Code of Conduct, they then refer the case to the Standards Commission for Scotland. The Standards Commission then decides whether the Code has been breached or not, and can hold a hearing to decide this. If the Code has been breached, the Standards Commission decides what should happen to the person you complained about.

You can find out more about the role of the Standards Commission on their website.

Complaints about the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland

You can complain about how the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS) has dealt with your complaint. There is information about how to make a complaint, and information about how complaints are dealt with on the CESPLS website.

More information

Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS)

Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS)
Thistle House
91 Haymarket Terrace
Edinburgh
EH12 5HE

Tel: 0300 011 0550 or 0131 347 3890
Email: investigations@ethicalstandards.org.uk
Website: www.ethicalstandards.org.uk

The Standards Commission for Scotland

Standards Commission for Scotland
Room T2.21
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

Tel: 0131 348 6666
Email: enquiries@standardscommission.org.uk
Website: www.standardscommissionscotland.org.uk

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