Protocol on County Councillor/Officer Relations


The purpose of this protocol is to provide guidance to members and officers about how they should interact with each other. This protocol cannot cover every eventuality and is not intended to be prescriptive. Its intention is to offer guidance on some of the issues which may commonly arise.


This protocol should be read in conjunction with the Code of Member Conduct and the Code of Conduct for Employees.

In this section:

The Roles of Members and Officers


County councillors who are elected as members of the Council, and professional officers who are its employees, have complementary roles in providing local governance, which is transparent and accountable. Effective partnership requires mutual respect and a proper understanding of the status and obligations of the individuals concerned.


County councillors are collectively accountable to the electorate for the conduct of the Council in performing its statutory duties and other local government functions. In some cases, they are responsible for discharging those functions through their membership of committees. Executive members who are appointed to the Cabinet are responsible for discharging defined Executive functions and for determining policy and providing political direction to the Council.


Officers are charged with the implementation of decisions taken by the Full Council, Cabinet and committees. Individual decision-making responsibilities of Cabinet Members are set out in the Scheme of Delegation to Cabinet Members. The Council exercises a monitoring role through meetings of the Full Council and a monitoring role is undertaken by Overview and Scrutiny Committees.


Officers serve the Council as a whole. They are required to carry out their duties objectively, free of any political bias. Relationships between all county councillors and officers should not be allowed to become so close, or appear to be so close, as to bring into question an officer's ability to deal impartially with all councillors as individuals and with all political groups. Councillors must accept that senior officers act independently in performing their functions and in no way seek to compromise their political neutrality. Officers must not assist county councillors in any research or support that is linked to their party-political activity.


The protocol applies, where appropriate, to voting co-opted members of the Council.

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Key Principles


The following key principles underpin the working relationship between county councillors and officers:

a) Working relations between Members and officers must be based on mutual trust and respect;

b) Officers must remain politically neutral at all times and must not offer advice of a political nature;

c) Officers have a duty to support all member and provide them with the level of information they need to carry out their roles;

d) Officers will keep discussions with political groups and individual Members confidential unless the group or Members gives permission to discuss the matter with others;

e) Members should be kept informed of relevant matters within their electoral division and should normally be invited to attend public meetings and events organised by the Council in their division;

f) Members have a right to access the information which they need to know in order to carry out their duties and responsibilities as a Member – see Access to Information Rules;

g) Members must understand and respect the competing pressures and workloads on officers' times;

h) Any request from officers to advise political group meetings must be made to the Chief Executive, or in their absence the appropriate Executive Director in conjunction with the Monitoring Officer; and

i) Members and officers will respect and adhere to their respective Codes of Conduct.

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Officers are accountable to their Director and Head of Service. Whilst officers should always seek to assist any county councillor, in doing so they must not exceed the powers which they have been authorised to exercise.


Officers should also refer to the Council’s Scheme of Delegation to Officers, Code of Conduct for Employees and to the Constitution as a whole for clarification about the boundaries of their responsibility. Officers should support and offer advice to both the Executive and Overview and Scrutiny functions of the Council.

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Relationships between Officers and County Councillors Performing Particular Roles


Some county councillors have been appointed to responsibilities and duties which require a particular working relationship with certain officers. Specific guidance on these particular relationships is offered below.

a) Leader and Deputy Leader

The role of the Executive Leader is set out in the Constitution. The Leader and Deputy require regular briefings from the Chief Executive and other senior officers on Council business and policy.

b) Cabinet Members

Cabinet Members and the Cabinet collectively will be routinely consulted and briefed as part of the process of preparing reports for decision by individual Cabinet Members or Cabinet. Any advice given by officers must be considered by Cabinet Members and taken account of in reaching a decision in accordance with Standing Orders. The Code of Member Conduct also provides that any county councillor must have regard to any formal statutory reports from the Council’s Chief Financial Officer and the Monitoring Officer when reaching decisions.
Cabinet Members, individually or collectively, will bear the responsibility for decisions taken following the advice given and duly recorded.

c) Chairs and Members of Committees

Chairs and Deputy Chairs of committees will be consulted and briefed routinely as part of the process of preparing agenda reports for committees. Any advice given by officers must be considered and taken account of by Chairs and members of committees in reaching a decision. Where officers are required to attend an Overview and Scrutiny Committee the approach should be through the appropriate Director in accordance with the terms of reference of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees.

d) Opposition Group Briefings

Nominated opposition group spokespersons are entitled to request and receive regular briefings on issues of Council business to be considered by the Full Council, Cabinet, Cabinet Members, or committees. The briefing should be provided by the appropriate Director or their nominated representative.

e) Independent (Non-Group) Councillors

County councillors who do not belong to a political group are entitled to seek and receive information on Council business on a similar basis.

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Officer Relationships with Political Groups


Officers will not normally provide advice or information to a political group. Similarly, officers should not normally be asked to brief political group meetings or discussions which involve non-Council representatives. Exceptions to this principle should be cleared by the Chief Executive, or in their absence the appropriate Executive Director in conjunction with the Monitoring Officer.

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County Councillors as Division Members


Whenever a public meeting or event is organised by the Council to consider a local issue, all the county councillors representing the electoral divisions affected will be invited to attend the meeting. Similarly, whenever the Council carries out any form of consultative exercise on a local issue, the county councillors for those electoral divisions are to be notified.


All county councillors have access to all public Cabinet, Full Council and committee agendas. The Council's intranet site provides facilities to identify the specific electoral divisions for items under consideration.

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County Councillors’ Access to Documents and Information


County councillors can approach the appropriate Director, Head of Service or Democratic Services to provide them with such information, explanation and advice as they may reasonably need in order to assist them in discharging their role as a county councillor. A request might be for general information about a particular aspect of a service’s activities or a request for specific information on behalf of a constituent. If county councillors wish to visit officers they should, whenever possible, contact the appropriate Director or Head of Service to make the necessary arrangements.


County councillors have legal rights of access to documents and information held by the Council – see Access to Information Rules. However, these rights are not absolute and in some circumstances a county councillor may have to establish a ‘need to know’ to justify access. Data Protection and Human Rights considerations may also apply in particular circumstances. Part II reports are provided to county councillors on the basis that they are private and confidential and disclosure may be unlawful – see Protocol on the Disclosure of Confidential Information.


A county councillor of one political group does not have the right to inspect a document that forms part of the internal workings of another political group or any document or part of a document containing advice provided by a political adviser or assistant.

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Confidential Information


The requirements of confidentiality referred to in the Protocol on the Disclosure of Confidential Information must be strictly observed. Any material provided on a confidential basis must remain so unless permission to share that information is given by the appropriate person. Officers must also at all times consider data protection and any other statutory provision relating to confidentiality and confidential material.

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Prohibition of Political Publicity


In accordance with the Local Government Act 1986, material must not be published which in whole or in part appears to affect public support for a political party. Any information published is restricted to the provision of information relating to the functions of the Council only.


The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (2011) also requires the Council to take extra care during periods of heightened sensitivity, such as in the pre-election period.

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Correspondence between an individual county councillor and an officer should not normally be copied by the officer to any other county councillor. Where it is felt necessary to copy the correspondence to another county councillor, this should be made clear to the county councillor who originated the enquiry. If the correspondence includes information relating to another county councillor then it will automatically be copied to the other county councillor concerned, without reference to the county councillor originating the enquiry.

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Support to County Councillors and Political Groups


The only basis on which the Council can lawfully provide support services such as stationery, typing, printing, photocopying, and transport to county councillors, is to assist them in discharging their role as county councillors. Such support services must therefore only be used for county council business. The services should not be used in connection with party political or campaigning activity.

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"Think Councillor"


"Think Councillor" is an initiative that encourages officers to think about county councillors in all areas of their work. It helps officers to be more aware of what county councillors do and how they can work with them.


There are six key principles of "Think Councillor" which officers must observe:

a) Put the needs and expectations of county councillors at the heart of everything they do;

b) Keep councillors informed, particularly when a matter affects a specific electoral division;

c) Provide a high standard of service and show respect to county councillors at all times, and remain political neutral;

d) Support county councillors to carry out their roles;

e) Find out what county councillors need and respond to it; and

f) Work positively with county councillors to continually improve services for the people of Lancashire.


Executive Directors, Directors and Heads of Service are responsible for ensuring that the principles of "Think Councillor" are embedded within their service areas.

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Media Relations


The Communications Team is the main contact point for media enquiries and responses and offers advice to county councillors and officers on all media-related matters.


Press releases and other communications with the media must be politically balanced and not favour the views of any political group over another.


Where a press release refers to a particular electoral division and involves an issue of particular local interest, the local county councillor should whenever possible be invited to comment and be involved in any photo opportunity or other media event that is organised.

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Guidance for Site Visits and Official Openings


Democratic Services and the Communications Team can offer guidance to assist county councillors when attending site visits and official openings on behalf of the Council. Particular protocols may exist for certain operational establishments.

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Monitoring and Evaluation of the Protocol


Government guidance recommends that where a protocol of this nature exists, it should be included within a Council’s Constitution. The Full Council has adopted and will keep under review the Protocol within the Constitution.

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Advice on the Operation of the Protocol


The protocol is intended to act as a guide for both county councillors and officers. Democratic Services will offer advice on the implementation and operation of the protocol. This does not replace existing statutory or Council procedures relating to complaints being made against officers or county councillors.

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