Local government: how to make a complaint

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

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 two stages to the complaints process:

1. The first stage is to complain to the council. At this stage, councils aim to respond to complaints quickly, where possible. This could mean you receive an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong, or immediate action to resolve a problem.

2. If you are not satisfied with the council’s response at the first stage, you can take your complaint to stage two.  At stage two councils deal with complaints that could not be resolved at stage one, and complex complaints that clearly require investigation and so are handled directly at stage two.

After the council have given you their final decision at stage two, if you are dissatisfied with the decision or the way the council dealt with your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to look at it.

Each council has its own customer facing information about complaints but SPSO also has generic guidance to councils on producing a customer facing guide.

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
Area 3G North
Victoria Quay

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