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Code of Conduct for Councillors


Code of Conduct for Councillors


The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 introduced a new ethical framework to Scotland, key elements of which are statutory Codes of Conduct and the Standards Commission for Scotland. As one of the earliest statutes passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Ethical Standards Act underlines the strong commitment to the promotion of high standards in public life by the Scottish Executive and the Parliament itself. Ethical standards and probity are now at the heart of decision making in Scotland.

The Act requires the Scottish Ministers to issue a Code of Conduct for Councillors and a Model Code of Conduct for members of devolved public bodies (listed in schedule 3 to the Act). It is anticipated that the Code of Conduct for Councillors, and the individual Codes for each of the devolved public bodies (which are to be based on the Model Code), will come into effect in the autumn of this year.

The Codes play a vital role in setting out, openly and clearly, the standards of conduct that must be applied and, in doing so, they will reinforce and strengthen public confidence in councillors and those appointed to public bodies.

The Standards Commission for Scotland - in co-operation with the Chief Investigating Officer - is responsible for the enforcement of the Codes. All allegations of misconduct, properly made, will be investigated and, where necessary, appropriate sanctions (set out in Annex A) will be applied.

The Commission also has responsibility for issuing guidance to assist councillors and members in observing the Codes and intends to do so - following a period of consultation - as soon as practicable. I invite local authorities and public bodies who identify specific areas on which they would welcome guidance not to hesitate to get in touch with us.

The Members of the Standards Commission see the introduction of the Codes as an opportunity to reinforce public confidence in, and respect for, the diverse activities of elected members and those appointed to public bodies. The Commissioners look forward to working in partnership with those who serve the people and communities of Scotland in order that together we can achieve the highest possible standards of conduct in public life. We invite all those in office to join with us in securing this key objective.


Professor Hugh Begg

March 2002

The Standards
Commission for Scotland
Forsyth House
Innova Business Campus
Rosyth Europarc
KY11 2UU

Tel : 01383 428058
Fax : 01383 428001

E-mail: enquiries@standardscommission.org.uk

A copy of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 is available from the Stationery Office (ISBN 0- 10-591008-2) and on the Stationery Office website at : http://www.scotland-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2000/00007--a.htm


1.1 The Scottish public has a high expectation of councillors and the way in which they should conduct themselves in undertaking their duties in the Council. You must meet those expectations by ensuring that your conduct is above reproach.

1.2 The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 provides for the introduction of new codes of conduct for local authority councillors and members of relevant public bodies; imposes on Councils and relevant public bodies a duty to help their members to comply with the relevant code; and establishes a Standards Commission for Scotland to oversee the new framework and deal with alleged breaches of the codes. The Act requires the issue of a Code of Conduct for councillors - this Code - which was prepared by CoSLA at the invitation of Scottish Ministers and has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

1.3 This Code applies to every member of a local authority in Scotland. As a councillor, it is your responsibility to make sure that you are familiar with, and that your actions comply with, its provisions.

1.4 This Code reflects the legal framework of Scottish Councils at the date of the Code's publication. Councillors and employees should interpret it in the context of their individual council's decision making structure.

Guidance on the Code of Conduct

1.5 Councillors hold public office under the law and must observe the rules of conduct stemming from the law, this Code and any guidance from the Standards Commission and the rules, standing orders and regulations of the Council. It is your personal responsibility to comply with these and review regularly, and at least annually, your personal circumstances with this in mind, particularly when your circumstances change. You must not, at any time, advocate or encourage any action contrary to the Code of Conduct.

1.6 The sections of the Code which follow have been developed in line with the key principles listed in Section 2 and provide additional information on how the principles should be interpreted and applied in practice. No written information can provide for all circumstances and if you are uncertain about how the rules apply, you should seek advice from senior Council employees. You may also choose to consult your own legal advisers, and on detailed financial and commercial matters, to seek advice from other relevant professionals.


1.7 Part 2 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act sets out the provisions for dealing with alleged breaches of the Code and for the sanctions that will be applied if the Standards Commission for Scotland finds that there has been a breach of the Code. In respect of councillors, those sanctions are set out in Annex A.


2.1 The general principles upon which this Code of Conduct is based are:


You have a duty to uphold the law and act in accordance with the law and the public trust placed in you. You have a duty to act in the interests of the Council as a whole and all the communities served by it and a duty to be accessible to all the people of the area for which you have been elected to serve, and to represent their interests conscientiously.


You have a duty to take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. You must not act in order to gain financial or other material benefit for yourself, family or friends.


You must not place yourself under any financial or other obligation to any individual or organisation that might reasonably be thought to influence you in the performance of your duties.


You must make decisions solely on merit when carrying out public business including making appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits.

Accountability and Stewardship

You are accountable for your decisions and actions to the public. You have a duty to consider issues on their merits, taking account of the views of others, and you must ensure that the Council uses its resources prudently and in accordance with the law.


You have a duty to be as open as possible about your decisions and actions, giving reasons for your decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.


You have a duty to act honestly. You must declare any private interests relating to your public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.


You have a duty to promote and support these principles by leadership and example, and to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of the Council and its councillors in conducting public business.


You must respect all other councillors and all Council employees and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times.

2.2 You should apply the principles of this Code to your informal dealings with the Council's employees, party political groups and others no less scrupulously than at formal meetings of the Council and its committees and sub-committees.


3.1 The principles of good conduct in this section must be observed in all situations where you act as a councillor, including representing the Council on official business. Relationship with Council Employees (Including those employed by contractors providing services to the Council)

3.2 You must respect all Council employees and the role they play, and treat them with courtesy at all times. It is expected that employees will show the same consideration in return.

3.3 Whilst both you and Council employees are servants of the public, you have separate responsibilities: you are responsible to the electorate but the employee is responsible to the Council as his or her employer. You must also respect the different roles that you and an employee play. Your role is to determine policy and to participate in decisions on matters placed before you, not to engage in direct operational management of the Council's services; that is the responsibility of the Council's employees. It is also the responsibility of the Chief Executive and senior employees to help ensure that the policies of the Council are implemented.

3.4 You must follow the Protocol for Relations between Councillors and Employees attached at Annex C. A breach of the Protocol will be considered as a breach of this Code.


3.5 You must comply with the rules for the payment to councillors of remuneration, allowances and expenses.

Gifts and Hospitality

3.6 You must never ask for gifts or hospitality.

3.7 You are personally responsible for all decisions connected with the acceptance of gifts or hospitality offered to you and for avoiding the risk of damage to public confidence in your Council and in local government. As a general guide, it is usually appropriate to refuse offers except:

(a) isolated gifts of a trivial character or inexpensive seasonal gifts such as a calendar or diary or other simple items of office equipment of modest value;

(b) normal hospitality associated with your duties and which would reasonably be regarded as appropriate; or

(c) civic gifts received on behalf of the Council.

3.8 You must not accept any offer by way of gift or hospitality which could give rise to a reasonable suspicion of influence on your part to show favour or disadvantage to any individual or organisation. You should also consider whether there may be any reasonable perception that any gift received by your spouse or cohabitee or by any company in which you have a controlling interest, or by a partnership of which you are a partner, can or would influence your judgement. The term "gift" includes benefits such as relief from indebtedness, loan concessions, or provision of services at a cost below that generally charged to members of the public.

3.9 You must not accept any offer of a gift or hospitality from any individual or organisation who is an applicant awaiting a decision from the Council or who is seeking to do business or to continue to do business with the Council. If you are making a visit to inspect equipment, vehicles, land or property, then as a general rule you should ensure that the Council pays for the cost of these visits.

3.10 You must only accept offers to attend social or sporting events where these are clearly part of the life of the community or where the Council would be expected to be represented.

3.11 You must not accept repeated hospitality from the same source.

3.12 If it is the practice of the Council to seek sponsorship for some of its activities or events, you must ensure that your involvement with the sponsors is limited to the event in question and does not damage public confidence in the relationship between the Council and the sponsors.

3.13 You must record with the appropriate officer the details of any gifts or hospitality received. This record will be available for public inspection.

Conduct in the Chamber or in Committee

3.14 You must respect the chair, your colleagues, Council employees and any members of the public present within the Chamber during Council or Committee meetings or other formal proceedings of the Council. You must comply with rulings from the chair in the conduct of the business of the Council.

Confidentiality Requirements

3.15 Council proceedings and printed material are generally open to the public. This should be the basis on which you normally work but there may be times when you will be required to treat discussions, documents or other information relating to the Council in a confidential manner, in which case you must observe such requirements for confidentiality.

3.16 You will often receive information of a private nature which is not yet public or which perhaps would not be intended to be public. There are provisions in legislation on the categories of confidential and exempt information and you must always respect and comply with the requirement to keep such information private. Legislation gives you certain rights to obtain information not otherwise available to the public and you are entitled to exercise these rights where the information is necessary to carry out Council duties. Such information is, however, for your individual use as a councillor and must not be disclosed or in anyway used for personal or party political advantage or in such a way as to discredit the Council. This will also apply in instances where you hold the personal view that such information should be publicly available.

Use of Council Facilities

3.17 The Council will normally provide facilities to assist councillors in carrying out their duties as councillors or as holders of a particular office within the Council. This may involve access to secretarial assistance, stationery and equipment such as telephones, fax machines and computers. Such facilities must only be used in carrying out Council duties and must never be used for party political or campaigning activities. Where the Council recognises party political groups, assistance to such groups is appropriate in relation to Council matters but must not extend to political parties more generally and you should be aware of and ensure the Council complies with the statutory rules governing local authority publicity.

Appointments to Partner Organisations

3.18 You may be appointed or nominated by the Council as a member of another body or organisation. If so, you will be bound by the rules of conduct of these organisations and your responsibility for any actions taken by you as a member of such an organisation will be to the organisation in question. You must also continue to observe the rules of this Code in carrying out the duties of that body.

3.19 If you become a director of a company as a nominee of the Council you will assume personal responsibilities under the Companies Acts. It is possible that a conflict of interest may arise for you as between the company and the Council. In such cases it is your responsibility to take advice on your responsibilities to the Council and to the company. This will include questions of declarations of interest.

Dealings with the Council

3.20 You will inevitably have dealings on a personal level with the Council of which you are a member - for example as a Council taxpayer, ratepayer, tenant, recipient of a Council service or applicant for a licence or consent granted by the Council. You must not seek preferential treatment for yourself, your family, friends, colleagues or employees because of your position as a councillor or as a member of a body to which you are appointed by the Council and you must avoid any action which could lead members of the public to believe that preferential treatment is being sought.

Responsibilities to the Council as a Member of the Public

3.21 The law makes specific provision that if a councillor is in two months' arrears with payment of Council tax that councillor may not participate in certain decisions concerning Council tax issues, in order to preserve public confidence that councillors are taking decisions in the general public interest. Similar considerations should apply in other forms of dealings between you and the Council where indebtedness may arise. Whilst you are a member of the community, you are also a representative of that community and of the Council to which you are elected. As there is potential for public perception of abuse of position and poor leadership, you must seek to avoid being in debt to the Council.

3.22 If you owe a debt to the Council, for example, in relation to rent due for a council house or commercial premises where the Council is the landlord, you must put in place at the earliest opportunity arrangements for repayment. You must avoid being in a situation which might lead the public to believe that preferential treatment is being sought. You must not participate in any decision which may create suspicion of a conflict of interest. For example, where you are in arrears of rent for a council house, you must not participate in decisions affecting the levels of rent to be paid by council house tenants.


4.1 The following paragraphs set out the categories of interests, financial and otherwise, which you have to register. These are "Registerable Interests", and you must ensure that they are registered, when you are elected and whenever your circumstances change.

4.2 Regulations made by Scottish Ministers describe the detail and timescale for registering interests. It is your personal responsibility to comply with these regulations and you should review regularly and at least once a year your personal circumstances. Annex B contains key definitions and explanatory notes to help you decide what is required when registering your interests under any particular category. The interests which require to be registered are those set out in the following paragraphs and relate to you. It is not necessary to register the interests of your spouse, or cohabitee.

Category One: Remuneration

4.3 You have a registerable interest where you receive remuneration by virtue of being:

  • employed;
  • self-employed;
  • the holder of an office;
  • a director of an undertaking;
  • a partner in a firm; or
  • undertaking a trade, profession or vocation, or any other work.

4.4 You do not have a registerable interest simply because you are a councillor.

4.5 If a position is not remunerated it does not need to be registered under this category. However, unremunerated directorships may need to be registered under category two "Related Undertakings".

4.6 If you receive any allowances in relation to membership of any organisation the fact that you receive such an allowance must be registered.

4.7 When registering employment, you must give the name of the employer, the nature of its business and the nature of the post held in the organisation.

4.8 When registering self-employment, you must provide the name and give details of the nature of the business. When registering an interest in a partnership, you must give the name of the partnership and the nature of its business.

4.9 Where you otherwise undertake a trade, profession or vocation, or any other work, the detail to be given is the nature of the work and its regularity. For example, if you write for a newspaper, you must give the name of the publication and the frequency of articles for which you are paid.

4.10 When registering a directorship, it is necessary to provide the registered name of the undertaking in which the directorship is held and detail the nature of its business.

4.11 Registration of a pension is not required as this falls outside the scope of the category.

Category Two: Related Undertakings

4.12 You must register any directorships held which are themselves not remunerated but where the company (or other undertaking) in question is a subsidiary of, or a parent of, a company (or other undertaking) in which you hold a remunerated directorship.

4.13 You must register the name of the subsidiary or parent company or other undertaking and the nature of its business, and its relationship to the company or other undertaking in which you are a director and from which you receive remuneration.

4.14 The situations to which the above paragraphs apply are as follows:

  • you are a director of a board of an undertaking and receive remuneration - declared under Category one - and
  • you are a director of a parent or subsidiary undertaking but do not receive remuneration in that capacity.

Category Three: Contracts

4.15 You have a registerable interest where you (or a firm in which you are a partner, or an undertaking in which you are a director or in which you have shares of a value as described in paragraph 4.20 below) have made a contract with the Council of which you are a member:

(i) under which goods or services are to be provided, or works are to be executed; and

(ii) which has not been fully discharged.

4.16 You must register a description of the contract, including its duration, but excluding the consideration.

Category Four: Election Expenses

4.17 You must register a statement of any assistance towards elections expenses received within the last twelve months.

Category Five: Houses, Land and Buildings

4.18 You have a registerable interest where you own or have any other right or interest in houses, land and buildings, such as being an owner or a tenant, including council tenant.

4.19 You are required to give the address of the property, or otherwise give a description sufficient to identify it.

Category Six: Interest in Shares and Securities

4.20 You have a registerable interest where you have an interest in shares comprised in the share capital of a company or other body and the nominal value of the shares is:

(i) greater than 1% of the issued share capital of the company or other body; or

(ii) greater than 25,000.

Category Seven: Non-Financial Interests

4.21 Councillors may also have significant non-financial interests and it is equally important that relevant interests such as membership or holding office in public bodies, companies, clubs, societies and organisations such as trades unions and voluntary organisations, are registered and described. In this context, non-financial interests are those which members of the public might reasonably think could influence your actions, speeches or votes in the Council.


5.1 The key principles of the Code, especially those which specify integrity, honesty and openness are given further practical effect by the requirement for you to declare interests at meetings which you attend. The rules on declaration of interest, along with the rules which require registration of interests, are intended to produce transparency in regard to interests which might influence, or be thought to influence, your actions as a councillor.

5.2 It is your responsibility to make decisions about whether you have to declare an interest or make a judgement as to whether a declared interest prevents you from taking part in any discussions or voting. You are in the best position to assess your personal circumstances and to judge how these circumstances affect your role as a councillor in regard to a particular matter. You can, of course, seek advice from appropriate Council officers or from other sources which may be available to you. In making decisions for which you are personally responsible you are advised to err on the side of caution.

5.3 You may feel able to state truthfully that an interest would not influence your role as a councillor in discussion or decision-making. You must, however, keep in mind that the test is whether a member of the public, acting reasonably, would think that a particular interest could influence your role as a councillor.

5.4 Much of the content of the rules set out in this section of the Code refers to Council or Committee meetings. The principles relating to declaration of interests are not confined to such meetings. You must apply these principles no less scrupulously in your dealings with Council officers, at meetings with other councillors, including party group meetings, meetings of Joint Boards and Joint Committees and any other meeting, formal or informal, where you are representing your Council.

Interests which Require Declaration

5.5 Interests which require to be declared may be financial or non-financial. They may or may not cover interests which are registerable in terms of this Code. Most of the interests to be declared will be your personal interests but, on occasion, you will have to consider whether the interests of other persons require you to make a declaration. The paragraphs which follow deal with (a) your financial interests, (b) your non-financial interests and (c) the interests, financial and non-financial, of other persons.

Your Financial Interests

5.6 Any financial interest which is registerable under any of the categories prescribed in Section 4 of this Code must be declared.

5.7 The financial interests which you may have to declare are not confined to those which are registerable. You may, for example, in the course of employment or self-employment, be engaged in providing professional advice to a person whose interests are a component of a matter to be dealt with by a Council Committee.

5.8 You do not have a financial interest which you have to declare as a Council tax payer or ratepayer or, in respect of any issue relating to the terms of services which are offered to the public generally, as a recipient or non-recipient of those services. Similarly, you do not have a financial interest in relation to any consideration of councillors' allowances or services provided by the Council to councillors to assist them in carrying out their duties.

Your Non-Financial Interests

5.9 If you have registered a non-financial interest under category seven of Section 4 you have recognised that it is a significant non-financial interest. There is, therefore, a very strong presumption that this interest will be the subject of declaration in any context where there is any link between a matter which requires your attention as a councillor and the registered interest.

5.10 As a councillor you will serve on other bodies as a result of express nomination or appointment by your Council or otherwise by virtue of being a councillor. Your membership of statutory Joint Boards or Joint Committees which are composed exclusively of Councillors does not raise any issue of declaration of interest in regard to Council business. In relation to service on the boards and management committees of limited liability companies, public bodies, societies and other organisations, you must decide, in the particular circumstances surrounding any matter, whether to declare a non-financial interest. Only if you believe that, in the particular circumstances, the nature of the interest is irrelevant or without significance, should it not be declared. You must always remember the public interest points towards transparency and, in particular, a possible divergence of interest between the Council and another body. Keep particularly in mind the advice in paragraph 3.19 of this Code about your legal responsibilities to any limited liability company of which you are a director.

5.11 You will also have other private and personal interests and may serve, or be associated with, bodies, societies and organisations as a result of your private and personal interests and not because of your role as a councillor. In the context of any particular matter you will have to decide whether to declare a non-financial interest. You should declare an interest unless you believe that, in the particular circumstances, the interest is irrelevant or without significance. In reaching a view you should consider whether your interest (whether taking the form of association or the holding of office) would be seen by a member of the public acting reasonably in a different light because it is the interest of a person who is a councillor as opposed to the interest of an ordinary member of the public.

The Interests of Other Persons

5.12 The Code requires only your financial interests to be registered. You may, however, have to consider whether you should declare an interest in regard to the financial interests of your spouse or cohabitee which are known to you. You may have to give similar consideration to any known non-financial interest of a spouse or cohabitee. You have to ask yourself whether a member of the public acting reasonably would regard these interests as effectively the same as your interests in the sense of potential effect on your responsibilities as a councillor.

5.13 The interests known to you, both financial and non-financial, of relatives and close friends may have to be declared. This Code does not attempt the task of defining "relative" or "friend". Not only is such a task one fraught with difficulty but is also unlikely that such definitions would reflect the intention of this part of the Code. The key principle is the need for transparency in regard to any interest which might (regardless of the precise description of relationship) be objectively regarded by a member of the public, acting reasonably, as potentially affecting your responsibilities as a councillor.

Making a Declaration

5.14 You must consider at the earliest stage possible whether you have an interest to declare in relation to any matter which is to be considered. You should consider whether agendas for meetings raise any issue of declaration of interest. Your declaration of interest must be made as soon as practicable at a meeting where that interest arises. If you do identify the need for a declaration of interest only when a particular matter is being discussed you must declare the interest as soon as you realise it is necessary.

5.15 The oral statement of declaration of interest should identify the item or items of business to which it relates. The statement should begin with the words "I declare an interest". The statement must be sufficiently informative to enable those at the meeting to understand the nature of your interest but need not give a detailed description of the interest.

Effect of Declaration

5.16 Declaring a financial interest has the effect of prohibiting any participation in discussion and voting. You should leave the meeting room until discussion of the item of business is concluded.

5.17 A declaration of a non-financial interest involves a further exercise of judgement on your part. You must consider the relationship between the interest which has been declared and the particular matter to be considered and relevant individual circumstances surrounding the particular matter.

5.18 In the final analysis the conclusive test is whether, in the particular circumstances of the item of business, and knowing all the relevant facts, a member of the public acting reasonably would consider that you might be influenced by the interest in your role as a councillor and that it would therefore be wrong to take part in any discussion or decisionmaking. If you are not confident about the application of this objective yardstick, you should play no part in discussion and should leave the meeting room until discussion of the particular item is concluded. If you, in conscience, believe that your continued presence would not fall foul of this objective test, then declaring an interest will not preclude your involvement in discussion or voting.

Frequent Declarations of Interest

5.19 Public confidence in a local authority is damaged by perception that a Council's decisions are substantially influenced by factors other than the public interest. If you would have to declare interests frequently at meetings of a particular committee or in respect of any role which you are asked to discharge as a councillor, you should not accept a role or appointment with that attendant consequence. Similarly, if any Council appointment or nomination to another body would give rise to objective concern because of your existing personal involvements or affiliations, you should not accept the appointment or nomination.


5.20 In some very limited circumstances dispensations may be granted by the Standards Commission in relation to the existence of financial and non-financial interests which in terms of this Code would otherwise prohibit participation in discussion and voting. 5.21 Applications for dispensations will be considered by the Standards Commission which will be able to entertain requests for dispensations which will apply generally to a class or description of councillors who are all affected by a particular category of interest. In situations where general or category dispensations are not granted by the Standards Commission, applications for particular dispensations should be made as soon as possible in advance of any meetings where dispensation is sought. You should take no part in consideration of the matter in question unless, and until, the application for dispensation is granted.


6.1 In order for the Council to fulfil its commitment to being open, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the public, it needs to encourage appropriate participation by organisations and individuals in the decision-making process. Clearly however, the desire to involve the public and other interest groups in the decision-making process must take account of the need to ensure transparency and probity in the way in which the Council conducts its business.

6.2 You will need to be able to consider evidence and arguments advanced by a wide range of organisations and individuals in order to perform your duties effectively. Some of these organisations and individuals will make their views known directly to individual councillors or Council committees. The rules and standards in this Code set out how you should conduct yourself in your contacts with those who seek to influence you.

6.3 You may be lobbied by a wide range of people including individuals, organisations, companies and developers. As a general rule, it is an essential element of the democratic system that any individual should be able to lobby the Council or a councillor. However, particular considerations apply when you are dealing with applications under regulatory powers such as planning and with matters of a quasi-judicial nature such as the determination of certain licence applications.

6.4 Political group meetings should not be used to decide how councillors should vote on such applications, or on individual staffing matters such as the appointment or discipline of employees. It is a breach of this Code to comply with political group decisions on such matters where these differ from your own views.


7.1 On questions which councillors have to decide on individual applications you may have to take account of different points of view. However, the legal responsibility for decisions will always be your own.

Dealing with Planning Applications

7.2 As a councillor you may have to deal with planning applications. You may become involved in local cases as a ward representative, or you may be more actively involved in decision making as a member of a committee or at meetings of the Council which deal with planning applications. If so, it is your duty to ensure that development decisions are properly taken and that parties involved in the development process are dealt with fairly.

7.3 To reduce the risk of planning decisions being legally challenged, in your dealings with planning applications you must not only avoid impropriety, but must at all times avoid any occasion for suspicion and any appearance of improper conduct.

7.4 If you have substantial property or other interests which would prevent you from voting on a regular basis you should not sit on a committee which deals with planning applications.

7.5 You must not act on behalf of, or as an agent for, an applicant for planning permission with the Council other than in the course of your professional role which you have registered.

7.6 When making a planning application for your own property, you must not take any further part in the development control process following submission of the planning application.

7.7 You must never seek to pressure planning officers to provide a particular recommendation on any planning application, planning agreement or taking enforcement action.

7.8 You should not organise support or opposition, lobby other councillors or act as an advocate to promote a particular recommendation on a planning application, on a planning agreement or on taking enforcement action.

7.9 It is possible that you may receive representations from interested parties in relation to planning applications. If you are a member of the committee which deals with planning applications, or if you are to attend a meeting of the Council to consider planning applications, and you wish to respond to lobbying by constituents or others by openly advocating a particular course of action prior to the meeting, you must declare an interest and not take part in any consideration of the application in question and you must leave the meeting room until consideration of the matter is concluded.

7.10 If you propose to take part in the consideration of planning applications at a meeting of a committee or of the Council, you must not give grounds to doubt your impartiality. You must not make public statements about a pending application, to ensure that you are not seen to be prejudging a decision which will be made at the meeting where all the information required to take a decision will be available. You must not indicate or imply your support or opposition to a proposal, or declare your voting intention, before the meeting. Anyone who may be seeking to influence you must be advised that you will not formulate an opinion on a particular proposal until all available information is to hand and has been duly considered at the relevant meeting.

7.11 If you have an interest, whether financial, non financial, or personal, in the outcome of a decision on a planning application, or a planning agreement, or on taking enforcement action, you must declare that interest and refrain from taking part in the consideration of the application.




(a) Censuring the councillor;

(b) suspending, for a period not exceeding one year, the councillor's entitlement to attend one or more but not all of the following:

i) all meetings of the Council;

ii) all meetings of one or more committees or sub-committees of the council;

iii) all meetings of any other body on which that councillor is a representative or nominee of the council;

(c) suspension, for a period not exceeding one year, of the councillor's entitlement to attend all meetings of the council, and of any committee or sub-committee of the council; and

of any other body on which the councillor is a representative or nominee of the council;

(d) disqualifying the councillor, for a period not exceeding five years, from being or being nominated for election as, or from being elected as, a councillor.

A period of suspension under (b) or (c) above which would continue until or beyond an ordinary election will come to an end at the beginning of the day on which that election is held.

Disqualification of a councillor has the effect of vacating that councillor's office and extends to the councillor's membership of any committee or sub-committee of the council, any joint committee, joint board or other body on which the councillor is a representative or nominee of the Council.

Where a councillor is a also a member of a devolved public body (as defined in the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000), other than as a representative or nominee of the Council, or is the Water Industry Commissioner, the Commission may also remove or disqualify that person in respect of that membership. Full details of the sanctions are set out in Section 19 of the Act.



1. "Remuneration" includes any salary, wage, share of profits, fee, expenses, other monetary benefit or benefit in kind. This would include, for example, the provision of a company car or travelling expenses by an employer.

2. "Undertaking" means: (a) a body corporate or partnership; or (b) an unincorporated association carrying on a trade or business, with or without a view to a profit.

3. "Related Undertaking" is a parent or subsidiary company of a principal undertaking of which you are also a director. You will receive remuneration for the principal undertaking though you will not receive remuneration as director of the related undertaking.

4. "Parent Undertaking" is an undertaking in relation to another undertaking, a subsidiary undertaking, if (a) it holds a majority of the voting rights in the undertaking; or (b) it is a member of the undertaking and has the right to appoint or remove a majority of its board of directors; or (c) it has the right to exercise a dominant influence over the undertaking (i) by virtue of provisions contained in the undertaking's memorandum or articles or (ii) by virtue of a control contract; or (d) it is a councillor of the undertaking and controls alone, pursuant to an agreement with other shareholders or councillors, a majority of the voting rights in the undertaking .

5. "Election expenses" means expenses incurred, whether before, during or after the election, on account of, or in respect of, the conduct or management of the election.

6. "A person" means a single individual or legal person and includes a group of companies.

7. "Group of companies" has the same meaning as "group" in section 262(1) of the Companies Act 1985. A "group", within s262(1) of the Companies Act 1985, means a parent undertaking and its subsidiary undertakings.

8. "Any person" includes individuals, incorporated and unincorporated bodies, trade unions, charities and voluntary organisations.

9. "Spouse" does not include a former spouse or a spouse who is living separately and apart from you.

10. "Cohabitee" includes a person, whether of the opposite sex or not, who is living with you in a relationship similar to that of husband and wife.

11. "Chair" includes Committee Convener or any person discharging similar functions under alternative decision making structures.




1. This protocol sets out the way in which Councils and employees of Councils should behave towards one another. It does not cover all the variety of circumstances which can arise, but the approach which it adopts will serve as a guide to dealing with other issues as they come up.

2. Councillors and employees should work in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, with neither party seeking to take unfair advantage of their position.


3. The most common contacts are between councillors and senior employees at Chief Executive, Director or Head of Service level, and this protocol is largely about those contacts. There are also many contacts between councillors and other employees in their daily business, and the principles of this protocol also apply to them. The particular position of employees who provide direct support services for councillors is dealt with separately at paragraph 21.

Members' and employees' roles

4. Within a Council, councillors have a number of different roles, all of which call for separate consideration. Some councillors are chairs of committees, most belong to political groups, and all have a local constituency to represent.

5. Legally, employees are employed by the Council and are accountable to it. Ultimately they serve the Council as a whole and not any particular political group, combination of groups or any individual member. Nonetheless, political groups exist in most Councils and employees may properly be called upon to assist the deliberations of political groups and also to help individual members in their different roles. Chief Executives and Senior Officers have ultimate responsibility to ensure that the Council's responsibilities are implemented.

Office bearers

6. It is clearly important that there should be a close professional working relationship between the Chair of a committee and the director and other senior employees of any service which reports to that committee. However, such relationships should never be allowed to become so close, or appear to be so close, as to bring into question employees' ability to deal impartially with other councillors, and the ability of Chairs to deal impartially with other employees.

7. The Chair of a committee will often be consulted on the preparation of agendas and reports. Employees will always be fully responsible for the contents of any report submitted in their name and have the right to submit reports to members on their areas of professional competence. While employees will wish to listen to the views of conveners, they must retain final responsibility for the content of reports.

8. Committee Chairs are recognised as the legitimate elected spokesperson on their committees' areas of responsibility. Where authority is delegated to employees they will often wish to consult Chairs of committees about the action which they propose to take but the responsibility for the final decision remains with the employee who is accountable for it. Chairs should bear this in mind when discussing proposed action with employees.

9. Committee Chairs will have many dealings with employees. Those employees should always seek to assist a committee Chair but it must be remembered that they are ultimately responsible to the Head of the Service.

Political groups

10. Most Councils operate through a system of groups of councillors, many of them based on political affiliation. All employees must, in their dealings with political groups and individual members, treat them in a fair and even-handed manner. Employees must at all times, maintain political neutrality.

11. The support provided by employees can take many forms, ranging from the meeting with the Chair and vice-Chair before a committee meeting to a presentation to a full party group meeting. Whilst in practice such support is likely to be in most demand from whichever party group is for the time being in control of the Council, it should be available to all party groups. The advice given by employees to different party groups should be consistent.

12. Certain matters must, however, be clearly understood by all those participating in this type of process, councillors and employees alike. In particular:

  • Council rules about groups' access to employees, e.g. all requests being approved by the Chief Executive, must be followed;
  • employee support in these circumstances must not extend beyond providing information and advice in relation to matters of Council business. The observance of this distinction will be assisted if employees are not expected to be present at meetings or parts of meetings, when matters of party business are to be discussed;
  • party group meetings, whilst they form part of the preliminaries to Council decision-making, are not empowered to make decisions on behalf of the Council. Conclusions reached at such meetings do not therefore rank as Council decisions and it is essential that they are not interpreted or acted upon as such;
  • where employees provide information and advice to a party group meeting in relation to a matter of Council business, this cannot act as a substitute for providing all necessary information and advice to the relevant committee or sub-committee when the matter in question is considered;
  • political groups need to recognise that information and advice given by employees should be used to enhance discussion and debate at Council and committee meetings. If such information is used for political advantage, for example media briefings beforehand, then the process could become devalued and place employees in a difficult position in giving information and advice; and
  • the chair of a political group meeting attended by employees has a responsibility for ensuring that those attending are clear on the status of the meeting and the basis on which employees are attending.

13. Special care needs to be exercised whenever employees are involved in providing information and advice to a meeting of a political group which includes persons who are not members of the Council. Such persons will not be bound by the Codes of conduct for councillors and employees (in particular, the provisions concerning the declaration of interests and confidentiality) and for this and other reasons employees may not be able to provide the same level of information and advice as they would to a members only meeting.

14. Any discussion with a political group or councillor must be treated with strict confidentiality by the employees concerned and should not be accessible to any other political group. It is acknowledged, however, that factual information upon which any advice is based will, if requested, be available to all political groups.

15. Should any difficulty or uncertainty arise in the area of employee advice to party groups, this shall be raised with the Chief Executive who should discuss the matter with the group leader.

Local representative

16. All councillors represent part of the area of the Council. Within each Council's rules about consultation and councillor involvement, employees must treat all councillors fairly and openly in their role as local representatives. When performing their local representative role, councillors will be seen by the public as representing the Council and should act in accordance with the principles of the Code of Conduct for Councillors and this protocol.


17. Communications between an individual councillor and an employee should normally not be copied by the officer to any other councillor. Where it is necessary to copy the communications to another member, this should be made clear to the original councillor at the time.


18. Where councillors are involved in the appointments of employees they must act fairly and openly and judge candidates solely on merit.

Social relationships

19. The relationship between councillors and employees depends upon trust and this will be enhanced by the development of positive, friendly relationships. Councillors and employees will often be thrown together in social situations within the community and they have a responsibility to project a positive image of the Council. Nonetheless, close personal familiarity between individual employees and councillors can damage the relationship of mutual respect and the belief that employees give objective and professional advice and commitment to the Council. Councillors and employees should, therefore, be cautious in developing close personal friendships while they have an official relationship.

Public comment

20. Councillors should not raise matters relating to the conduct or capability of employees in public. Employees must accord to councillors the respect and courtesy due to them in their various roles. There are provisions in the Code of Conduct for Employees about speaking in public and employees should observe them.

Employees supporting councillors

21. Where Councils arrange for employees to support members directly in carrying out their duties, particular considerations apply. Such employees are normally involved in administrative and practical support of councillors. While such staff may operate to the requirements of individual councillors in their daily business, it must be remembered that the employees are accountable to their line managers and any issues about conflicting priorities, conduct or performance must be referred to those managers.