Publication - Factsheet

Local government: how to make a complaint

Published: 20 Apr 2018

How to make a complaint about a Scottish council or councillor.

20 Apr 2018
Local government: how to make a complaint

Councils are separate from the Scottish Government and are accountable to their electorates, not to Scottish Ministers. Their powers are set out in statute and as long as they act lawfully, it is up to each council how it manages its day to day business.

The Scottish Government does not deal with complaints about councils or councillors, but there is a clear process for making a complaint and several independent bodies which have statutory responsibility for overseeing the standards and conduct of councils and councillors.

Making a complaint about a council

Councils are subject to audit and scrutiny by various external bodies to ensure that the services they provide are of a high quality. However, if you feel that a council has not provided a good standard of service, you can make a complaint. There are three stages to go through:

  1. The first stage is to complain direct to the Service involved within the council (e.g. education, social work) so that there is an opportunity for the issue to be put right.
  2. If you are unhappy with the Service's response to your complaint, you can then make an official complaint to the council. Each council has a formal complaints procedure which can be accessed through their website.
  3. If you have been through the formal complaints procedure and are still not happy with the council's response, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to consider your complaint.

Making a complaint about a councillor

Councillors in Scotland are bound by a Code of Conduct. If you feel that a councillor has not followed the Councillors' Code of Conduct, you can refer your complaint to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland.

Where appropriate, the Commissioner will report on the outcome of these investigations to the Standards Commission for Scotland. This is an independent body responsible for enforcing compliance with Codes of Conduct and providing guidance on their interpretation.


Phone: 0131 244 4280

Local Government Policy and Relationships Team
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