Complaints - Procedure
The Council recognises the importance of customer complaints and welcomes complaints as a valuable form of feedback about its services. The Council is committed to using the information it receives to help drive forward improvements.
This procedure outlines the aims of the Council in dealing with complaints and sets out what you as the customer can expect when making a complaint regarding a Council service. Our definition of a complaint is any dissatisfaction with a service that has not been delivered in accordance with our published service standards.
A complaint is a way of letting the Council know that you are not happy with a particular service. We welcome your feedback. A complaint may be about delay, lack of response, discourtesy, failure to consult or about the standard of service you have received.
So please let us know if:
- you think we have done something wrong
- we have not done something that we said we would do
- you are not satisfied with a particular service or set of services that we provide
We intend, where possible, to allow a complaint to be dealt with under this procedure, however, we do consider the following to be exceptions to the complaint system:
- A first request for a service where there has been no previous contact with the Council. E.g. a 'complaint' about a wasp nest or rodent infestation.
- A report of defects where there has been no previous contact with the Council. E.g. repairs to Council property, damaged/broken street lights, faulty traffic/controlled crossing lights.
Sometimes we cannot or are not allowed to accept complaints where there are some statutory and legal limitations such as:
- a Town and Country Planning appeal against refusal of planning permission
- a complaint where the customer or the Council has commenced legal proceedings or has taken court action but not cases where a customer has simply threatened to start legal proceedings against the council
- a complaint that has already been heard by a court or tribunal, including the Council Tax Valuation Tribunal, Housing Benefit Review Board and Revenue Services Review Board appeal mechanisms.
- a complaint about Social Services provision covered by statutory procedures (i.e. Section 7B of the Local Authority Social Services Act, 1970 as amended by Section 50 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act, 1990)
- a school admission or exclusion appeal
- a staff complaint about a personnel matter, including appointments, dismissals, pay, pensions and discipline (but not from staff as service users)
- a complaint about Council policy
- a complaint about the issue of a penalty charge notice by the parking control service (except administrative issues) and the recovery process thereafter
- a complaint against the refusal of disabled badges for parking exemption.
- Situations where there is already another resolution process that has been invoked. E.g. litigation or a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
You can complain in person at the Council Offices. You can telephone, fax or email your complaint using the details above. Alternatively, you may also use the online form below:
We understand that it might be difficult for you to complain because you are worried that your complaint could result in a poorer service to your household. Please be assured that we treat all complaints against the Council in the strictest confidence, and that it is your right to complain.
If you do not provide us with a contact name or address, it will not be possible for us to get back to you with the outcome of the investigation.
You may wish to ask someone to help you in making a complaint against a Council service. This person is called an advocate. It is up to you who you appoint to be your advocate. It could be a friend, relative, someone you trust or a voluntary agency.
Once you have appointed an advocate, we will be dealing directly with them until the investigation into your complaint is completed. It is your right to inform the Council that you no longer wish to complain to us via your 'advocate' at any stage during the investigation.
How We Will Deal With Your Complaint
We want to give you as our service users a fair, consistent and structured process to secure a remedy for failures in the delivery of our services.
We want to learn from all complaints made to us. Therefore, we will use the outcome of your complaint and any remedial action as a positive method of monitoring performance and improving our services.
We will be monitoring all complaints received and will classify complaints under certain categories such as inadequate service, delay in providing service or poor officer behaviour. By analysing complaints we aim to highlight specific areas of the Council service provision where improvement is needed.
Principles of the Complaints Procedure
The Complaints Policy is based on the principle of a three-stage process
- Stage 1 – Initial Contact
The initial contact to express a dissatisfaction with a service that has not been delivered as we said it would. All staff are empowered to respond to a complaint at this stage and to take remedial action wherever possible.
If you are not satisfied with the response at this stage you may ask for the complaint to be escalated to Stage 2.
- Stage 2 - Service Area Review
The Director of the Service will acknowledge your complaint within two working days and notify your Ward Councillor at the same time. The Director will then either investigate or review your complaint or request a Senior Manager based within the Service to do so. You will be given a full response to your complaint within15 working days from the receipt of your complaint.
The acknowledgement will provide contact details of the officer dealing with your complaint and the timescale for replying to your complaint. If the officer is unable to reply within the agreed amount of days, i.e. for very complex matters, you will be informed of the reasons for the delay, and the revised time-scales for reply to be sent out.
- Stage 3 – Monitoring Officer review
If you are unhappy with the response that you have been provided with under Stage 2 of the Procedure, you may ask the Council's Monitoring Officer to review the action that has been taken in respect of your complaint.
On receipt of your request for a review, the Monitoring Officer will acknowledge your complaint within two working days and provide you with the contact details for the person dealing with your complaint. The person dealing with your complaint will contact you and discuss the precise nature of the complaint and the your desired outcome. This will then be sent to you in writing for you to agree and return within 5 working days. Once this is received the person dealing with you complaint will begin the investigation/review and you can expect a full response within 20 working days of the receipt of your agreement to the details of the complaint. Again, if the matter is complex and interviews/ site visits need to be undertaken, this may be extended after consultation with you. The Monitoring Officer, Chief Executive and the Service Director will review the response to your complaint before it is sent to you.
The Complaints Procedure will apply both to services that we provide directly and indirectly, for example where the service is provided through an outside contractor.
Local Government Ombudsman
If you are unhappy with the outcome or way in which the Council has investigated your complaint, you may ask the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate the matter on your behalf.
We welcome helpful criticism by the Local Government Ombudsman. In addition our objective must be to identify our own failures and resolve them reasonably and quickly.