This is the Council’s corporate complaints procedure for dealing with corporate complaints.
For the purposes of this complaint’s procedure, a complaint is defined as:
“An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, action or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf.”
For the purposes of the Housing Ombudsman and dealing with resident complaints, complaints are defined as: ‘an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents
- Please note the following matters will not be treated as a complaint under this complaints procedure:
- complaints about a decision taken by a committee of elected members of the council, or by Full Council.
- complaints where the complainant or another person has commenced or intends to commence legal proceedings against the Council.
- complaints where the Council has commenced or intends to commence legal proceedings relating to the matter of complaint.
- complaints that involve an insurance claim against the Council.
- matters which are under consideration by another function of the Council e.g. a live planning application.
- complaints where an alternative right of appeal exists, e.g. an appeal against a Housing Benefits/Council Tax Benefit decision, appeal against a planning decision, appeals against Penalty Charge Notices, homelessness decision reviews, matters where there is a right of appeal via Judicial Review, etc
- a matter which has not affected the complainant personally or caused them an injustice.
- a widespread service issue which affects most people in the Council’s area.
- complaints about a member of staff that would more properly be dealt with through the Council’s disciplinary procedures.
- complaints about the decision of a recruitment process.
- allegations of fraud or corruption that would more appropriately be dealt with by the Council’s anti-fraud and corruption policy or whistleblowing procedures or referral to the Monitoring Officer.
- complaints about contractual matters made by commercial suppliers to the Council.
- matters that the complainant knew about more than 12 months before the complaint was made unless there are good reasons for why they have not been raised with the Council sooner.
- those matters already dealt with through appropriate complaint or appeal procedure and where that process has been exhausted. These matters will only be considered again if new relevant evidence comes to light which may impact on the previous outcome.
- complaints about elected and co-opted members of the Council should be referred to the Monitoring Officer.
- complaints about a breach of data protection or Freedom of Information requests.
- if your complaint is considered to be an enquiry or service request (see section 5).
Where a decision has been made not to deal with a complaint through the complaints procedure you will be advised of any alternative options that might be available.
It should be recognised that the above list is a general guide and is not exhaustive. This list does not preclude individual complaints that may fall into one of the above categories being dealt with through the complaints procedure as determined by the Information Governance Manger.
Complainants are encouraged to take the following guidance into account before
making a complaint.
+ Review the Complaints procedure, be clear and brief:
Read the complaints procedure carefully before submitting a complaint.
Cover all the relevant points and consider the use of numbered lists and headings to highlight the important issues.
Provide accurate contact information and please let us know if your contact details change.
+ Provide evidence:
Send copies of relevant documents – but only those that will help the Council
understand the complaint or provide evidence to support it. Complainants are
advised to keep any original documents and send copies with any complaint.
+ Check your complaint carefully before submitting it
+ Explain clearly what you hope to achieve
+ Be patient, polite and prepared to listen, we are trying to help (also see section 11)
+ Respond appropriately:
read any letters and documents that are sent to you and respond to the Information Governance Team if asked to do so.
Before making a complaint, we would ask you to contact the relevant service or officer you have been dealing with as they may not be aware that you are dissatisfied. We believe they should be given the opportunity to put things right for you or explain what went wrong.
Service teams will be expected to try and address the issues that you have raised and keep the Information Governance Team updated on progress.
If it is not possible to resolve the complaint informally in this way and you remain dissatisfied, the matter will be progressed to the formal complaints procedure and registered at Stage 1.
The Council’s Information Governance Team (who are independent of the service your complaint is about) act as a central hub, ensuring that complaints are recorded and dealt with in accordance with this complaints procedure.
Where a matter meets the definition of a complaint and cannot be resolved informally (see section 5), your expression of dissatisfaction will be treated as a complaint. The Council follows a two stage process.
The aim of the first stage of the complaints procedure is to resolve problems as quickly and as easily as possible
All complaints, however they are received, must be referred to the Information Governance Team and registered on the Council’s central complaints database and acknowledged.
Acknowledging the complaint
All complaints should be acknowledged in writing within five working days of being received.
Responding to the complaint
We will aim to respond to your complaint within fifteen working days of receipt of your complaint.
If it is not possible to fully reply within fifteen working days, you will be advised together
with an explanation as to why there is a delay and when you can expect a response.
We will seek to ensure our responses:
- use clear plain language, be concise and avoid jargon and technical language as much as possible.
- answer all the points of concern raised.
- If applicable, explain the reasons for any failure in service.
- provide an apology where appropriate, and explain what action has been, or is being taken, to put things right and prevent the same thing happening in the future.
- explain what further action the complainant can take if they are not satisfied with the department’s response (Stage 2 of the complaints procedure).
If you are still unhappy after the complaint has been dealt with at Stage 1, you can ask for a further investigation to be carried out by a senior officer.
Requests for Stage 2 investigations should be submitted in writing to the Information Governance Team by you or your advocate within one month of the Stage 1 response, explaining why you are unhappy with the response at Stage 1 and what outcome you are seeking.
The Information Governance Team will assess the request and acknowledge the request within three working days of receipt, providing details of how your complaint will be dealt with.
Depending on the circumstances of the complaint and the action already taken by the relevant service, the Information Governance Team will either:
- Decide to escalate (in consultation with a senior officer)
For example, this option will be appropriate in cases where the Information Governance Team is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to warrant a further investigation based on new evidence or information not previously considered or available.
- Decide not to investigate
This option would be appropriate in cases where:
- the complaint has already been comprehensively investigated by the department involved.
- The service team has clearly followed the appropriate procedures.
- The Information Governance Officer, in consultation with the Senior officer, is satisfied having considered relevant information, that further investigation would be unlikely to achieve anything further for the complainant.
- The complaint falls outside the scope of this complaints procedure (see section 3).
In such cases, the Information Governance Team will offer advice about other options for pursuing the complaint, such as the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, the Housing Ombudsman Service or seeking independent legal advice.
Investigations will focus on the administrative process and whether the Council has acted in accordance with the appropriate policies, processes, and legislation. The complaints procedure cannot consider the merits of a decision or the professional judgement of officers. The Information Governance Team will consider if the service team has acted fairly, proportionately, and reasonably.
On completion of the investigation, the Information Governance Team will reply to you setting out the findings of the investigation.
We aim to conclude all stage 2 investigations within fifteen working days. Where this is not possible, in the case of particularly complex investigations for example, the Information Governance Team will ensure that you are kept informed of progress.
At the end of Stage 2 you will be advised of their right to contact the appropriate Ombudsman.
A key function of the complaints procedure is to facilitate continuous improvement and ensure that the Council learns from complaints and uses them to improve services.
A summary of outcomes and recommendations from complaints, including progress on implementing them, will be reported to the Council’s Senior Leadership Team and annually to Members within the Annual Customer Insights Report.
Compliments are also a valuable way of learning about what we are doing right, what works well and what our customers really value. We pride ourselves on providing services of the highest quality and it is encouraging to hear good news about our services. You can help shape our services by letting us know your thoughts. If you have a compliment or suggestion about any of our services, please let us know.
Any member of the public can complain to an Ombudsman at any time, but the Ombudsman would normally expect to see that the Council’s own complaints procedure has been exhausted first.
The Information Governance Team will oversee all Ombudsman complaints and act as the link between the Ombudsman and relevant service teams to request and collate any required information. The Information Governance Manager will prepare written responses on behalf of the Council and liaise with the Ombudsman pending resolution of cases.
It is helpful for complaints, particularly more serious and detailed matters, to be put in writing. If you require additional support in submitting a complaint then they should be advised to contact the Customer Services Team who can facilitate or arrange assistance.
There will inevitably be some complainants who will either continue to complain after their complaint has dealt with via our complaints procedure or whose behaviour is unreasonable and concerning.
Continual correspondence about complaints which have been completed is unhelpful, reduces the Council’s efficiency and can cause a considerable amount of stress to members of staff.
You have the right to have your complaint dealt with but equally our members of staff have the right to be treated with respect. The Council recognises that it has a duty of care towards staff and that duty of care involves having a safe working space. Staff experiencing this behaviour are advised to liaise with the Information Governance and Human Resource Teams to consider if any safeguards need to be put in place.
Further details on how we manage such behaviour can be found within our Managed Contact Policy.