Complaints Procedure

The Council is committed to continually improving the way it provides customers with access to services and the quality of those services.  This policy covers all the services delivered by the Council, or for which it has responsibility, it does not include services where there are separate complaints procedures, for example the conduct of elections or about the conduct of Councillors.

A clear and accessible Compliments, Complaints & Comments process allows the Council to demonstrate its commitment to manage customer feedback effectively

This Policy is designed to ensure that:

  • Providing feedback to the Council is made as easy as possible
  • Feedback is dealt with promptly and efficiently
  • Every effort is made to resolve any complaints that are received
  • The Council learns from all feedback received taking appropriate steps to improve service provision.

Definitions

For the purpose of this Policy the following definitions will be used.

  • A compliment is an expression of satisfaction from a customer concerning a function or a service provided by the Council.
  • A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the standard of a service that is provided by the Council. This may include the action or lack of action taken by the Council and/or the way in which the service has been provided, including the conduct of staff.
  • A comment is a view that the customer may have about a service that is provided by the Council or an initial request for a service.

Customers often have feedback and it is important that we understand whether this is a complaint about a service, or expression of a comment.  Where a customer perceives that the service they have received is below what they would expect, this should be considered to be a complaint.  It is important that it is investigated and a full answer given to the customer and that there is some learning from any mistakes made.  Where there are comments or observations from customers, these can also help to improve service provision, and these will always be considered by managers, but not treated as a complaint.

The distinction between a comment and a complaint can sometimes be difficult to decide.  Where there is any doubt, we will tend to treat it as a complaint, the Service Manager (Customer Services and IT)  will advise on the application of this element of the policy.

How a customer may provide feedback

A customer may provide feedback either

  • in person
  • by telephone
  • in writing
  • by email
  • by using the on-line complaints form on the Council’s website

Generally we will respond to customers using the same channel of contact, unless expressly asked otherwise.  For example, if contacted by email, then all further correspondence will be by email.

Customers are encouraged to put their complaints in writing to give as much information as possible to aid investigation.  If they are making a verbal complaint, we will take down their details and confirm with them that they wish the complaint to be investigated and how to contact them with the outcome of the investigation

A standard feedback form will be available at all Council reception areas and on the Council’s website.

The Council’s Leisure Centres all have a ‘comments book’ available for customers in the Reception areas.  The Manager of the Leisure Centre reviews these each day and provides a response in the book, this can be checked by the customer who made the comment, and other customers which ensures there is comprehensive feedback.

Recording compliments & complaints

The Service Manager (Customer Services and IT)  is responsible for the Council’s compliments, complaints and comments procedure.

To ensure that there is consistency across the different Council departments, Service Managers  must designate appropriate staff to receive and deal with any feedback regarding their service area. Relevant staff in their departments are aware of the importance of recognising what compliments and complaints are and are dealt with and recorded on the Council’s compliments and complaints system.

All compliments and complaints must be recorded promptly in the Councils compliments and complaints system and dealt with in the agreed timescales. This will allow the Council to take in to account feedback received from customers, learn from our mistakes, to identify improvements to service delivery and to identify training needs.

Where there is a complaint involving more than one department of the Council then the departments involved will identify a lead officer to investigate and deal with the complaint.

Monitoring

Service Managers  should ensure that they monitor and review outcomes of all feedback that they receive within their departments to identify trends and to use them for discussion at team meetings, staff development and Staff PDR’s.

Each Quarter, the Service Manager (Customer Services and IT) will collate details relating to  the number of compliments and complaints received by the Council for each Service area. These details will be entered onto the Councils Corporate Performance Management System.

If required and by invitation or request, the Service Manager (Customer Services and IT) will provide additional information relating to  compliments and complaints received by the Council for each department to the Performance Scrutiny Committee.

Framework for managing complaints

The Council will adopt a three stage complaint process:

Stage 1 - Service Department Complaint

  1. The complaint is investigated at the point of service delivery. Within 2 working days, the customer should receive a full response or acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint.
  2. A full response should be sent within 10 working days of the receipt of the complaint.  If this is not possible because of the complexity of the complaint then the customer will be advised that the investigation is continuing and giving an indication of when it will be completed.
  3. The complainant will be advised in the Council’s response of what they need to do to progress to stage 2 if they remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint.

Stage 2 - Service Department Reviews

  1. The relevant Service Manager  will ensure that an objective review is carried out for any stage 2 complaint that is received. As well as reviewing the original complaint and the Councils response under stage 1 of the complaints procedure it will also take in to account any further relevant information provided by the complainant.
  2. Within 2 working days, the customer should receive a full response of the outcome of the review or acknowledgement of receipt of the request for a review.
  3. A full response should be sent within 10 working days of the receipt of the request for a review.  If this is not possible because of the complexity of the complaint then the customer will be advised that the investigation is continuing and giving an indication of when it will be completed.
  4. The complainant will be advised in the response that they may complain further to the Local Government Ombudsman and sent details of their procedure.

Stage 3 – Referral to the Local Government Ombudsman

Any correspondence received from and to the Local Government Ombudsman will be handled by the Council’s Senior Solicitor and Monitoring Officer  who will enter the referral on to the Local Government Ombudsman system. The actual referral will be sent to the relevant Service Manager  for their comments.

Remedies

Where a complaint investigation identifies that things have gone wrong an appropriate remedy will be determined.

Appropriate remedies could include:

  • An apology
  • An explanation of what went wrong
  • Actions to put things right
  • Some form of compensation to the customer. Any financial compensation must be in line with the council’s delegated powers procedure

The guiding principle must be that where possible the customer is put back in to the position they would have been if things had not gone wrong.

Evaluating our response to complainants

Customer Services may  contact  complainants after a complaint has been dealt with asking them to complete a satisfaction form. The aim of this form is to provide information to help the Council determine:

  • Whether the complaint procedure was accessible and easy to use.
  • Levels of satisfaction with the way the complaint was handled and with the remedy offered

Unreasonably persistent or vexatious complaints

On occasions certain complaints can be difficult to resolve and can cause anxiety and distress to both complainants and employees of the Council. Whilst the aim of the council is always to try to find a way to resolve matters, on occasions complainants are encountered who become unreasonably persistent or vexatious in their actions to obtain the outcome that they want.

The Council wants to ensure that in using the complaints procedure complainants who are unreasonable persistent or vexatious are dealt with fairly but also that the Council’s resources are also used effectively as possible and that other service users or Council employees do not suffer any detriment as a result of their behaviour.

Whilst every effort will be taken to resolve a complaint there is a separate policy to deal with any unreasonably persistent or vexatious complaints