A: Member correspondence – both hard copy and email
Key expectations: Member discretion
It is for each Member to judge the particular circumstances of any communication and to act in a way which is proportionate and respectful. While it is for each Member to decide whether a particular communication necessitates a personal response from them, such a response may only be reasonably be expected where the communication they receive relates to matters of relevance to their duties as a councillor.
Ward constituents or other stakeholders may expect a response to every direct communication they send to an individual member. However the volume of communications received by elected Members (particularly via email) means that this is not always possible - nor may it be necessary. In a situation where more than one ward member and/or officer(s) of the Council have been joined into an email, then it will be for each individual Member to decide whether they need to respond personally rather than allowing a fellow Member or officer to respond on behalf of the Council, as that person sees fit.
In any case where a Member is only ‘copied’ or ‘ccd’ into an email as opposed to being a primary recipient of it, then the following applies:
- members may (depending on workloads) need to prioritise those emails which are directed to them as primary recipient. This may mean that they do not read all emails which they are merely copied or ‘ccd’ into.
- in any case, the normal expectation is that Members will not be expected to respond individually to emails which they have only been ccd into.
Managing expectations via automated messages
Members are in any event encouraged to make use of the out of office assistant available on Outlook to manage expectations, especially where there is likely to be a delay to their normal response times due to holidays, illness or workloads.
It is recognised that on occasion Members may find themselves overwhelmed by a sheer volume of correspondence, particularly when a controversial issue arises. A delay in replying caused by unmanageable volume of correspondence or an occasional failure to respond would not normally constitute a breach of the Member’s Code of Conduct. However Members should be aware that repeated failure to respond promptly or at all to substantive correspondence directed at them individually which meets the criteria above could amount to failure to treat people with respect and/or be deemed to be conduct which brings their office or the Council into disrepute.
Repetitious or otherwise inappropriate communications
It is also recognised that some correspondents – whether because they do not receive the reply they are seeking, or for some other reason - repeat the same request or points in a series of emails or letters, continuing the conversation (and on occasion ccing in other parties) after the Member has made their position clear. In this situation, it is for the individual Member to decide on a reasonable course of action. This may involve deciding not to respond further: a decision which is normally taken after they have first made their position clear to the other person and informed them that they consider the conversation to be at an end.
Similarly, the expectation of respectful behaviour applies to all parties in a conversation. Members are not expected to engage or to continue to engage in exchanges in which the other party/ies is acting in a way which is disrespectful, abusive or otherwise inappropriate. In such a situation, they will normally be expected to send a single communication indicating that they are not minded to engage giving brief reasons. This is however at the individual Member’s discretion and there may be circumstances where the other person has behaved in such a way that no response can reasonably be expected.