Code of conduct and standards

As a councillor you will be required to adhere to your council’s agreed code of conduct for elected members. Each council adopts its own code, but it must be based on the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s seven principles of public life. 


As a councillor you will be required to adhere to your council’s agreed code of conduct for elected members. Each council adopts its own code, but it must be based on the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s seven principles of public life. 

These were developed by the Nolan Committee, which looked at how to improve ethical standards in public life and are often referred to as the ‘Nolan principles’. They apply to anyone who works as a public office holder. This includes all those elected or appointed to public office, nationally or locally, and everyone working in the civil service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies and in the health, education and social care sectors. All public office holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The principles also apply to everyone in other sectors delivering public services.

All councils are required to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by councillors, but individual councillors must also take responsibility. For example, you must register any disclosable pecuniary (financial) interests for yourself, your spouse, your civil partner, or a partner you live with, within 28 days of taking up office. It is a criminal offence if you fail, without reasonable excuse, to declare or register interests to the monitoring officer.

Seven principles of public life

Holders of public office should uphold the following seven principles:

  • Selflessness
    Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
  • Integrity
    Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
  • Objectivity
    Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
  • Accountability
    Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
  • Openness
    Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so.
  • Honesty
    Holders of public office should be truthful.
  • Leadership
    Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.