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Comments and complaints

Complaints procedure

Where a matter is sufficiently serious to accord with the definition of a complaint and cannot be resolved through informal contacts or discussion, your expression of dissatisfaction will be treated as a complaint. The Council follows a two stage initial process. A third external process may be available.

Complaint stages

Stage 1

Complaints should be made in the first instance to the Service Manager in the relevant department or you can contact the Complaints & Information Officer whose address is at the end of this Guide.

Complaints will be acknowledged within three working days and a fuller reply given within 20 working days. Details of the receipt of the complaint, the action taken and the lessons learned or to be learned will be logged.

Stage 2

If the complaint is not resolved by the Service Manager you may ask for the matter to be reviewed by the relevant Chief Executive.

Complaints will be acknowledged within three working days and a fuller reply given within 20 working days. Confidentiality and confidence

If you make a complaint your identity will be made known only to those who need to consider the complaint and will not be revealed to any other person except your local councillor (unless you object), or made public. However, your identity may have to be disclosed where your complaint involves third parties or where court or disciplinary proceedings are contemplated. Anonymised reports on complaints will be made to councillors and senior officers on a regular basis.

All complaints will be dealt with impartially, objectively and professionally. You need not fear adverse treatment because you have made a complaint.

How we can respond to complaints

If your complaint is not upheld, you will be informed of the Council's view, which should set out clearly, fully and sympathetically the reasons for the decision. If there is another stage to which the matter can be taken, you will be told of the options open to you.

Putting things right

This complaints system is available to put things rights if they have gone wrong. The Council aims to fit the remedy to the harm or injustice to you. Compensation is not payable unless there has been maladministration by the Council causing injustice to you. Money is not the only, or necessarily the best remedy in every case. An apology will normally be appropriate.

Where the Council's maladministration has caused injustice to you the Council can consider the following:

  • An apology
  • Specific action to meet the nature of the complaint
  • Specific action to mitigate the injustice
  • Payment of sums due but not paid
  • Reimbursement of actual quantified loss
  • Payment for loss of value
  • Payment for distress
  • Payment for time and trouble in pursuing the complaint

We will take into account

  • Your own actions
  • Any delay in pursuing the complaint

It is not normally reasonable for the Council to reimburse professional fees

The Council is entitled to offset against any payment sums due to the Council. Compensation can only be awarded by the Chief Executive acting in consultation with the Head of Legal.

Referral to the Ombudsman

If the complaint is not resolved you may refer the matter to the independent Local Government Ombudsman (The Commission for Local Administration in England).

Unreasonably persistent complaints

We value all kinds of customer feedback and complaints are treated seriously and recognised as a way for us to identify and implement service improvements. We are accountable for the proper use of public money and must ensure that money is spent wisely and achieves value for complainants and the wider public.

We are committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially and to providing a high-quality service to those who make them. As part of this service we do not normally limit the contact complainants have with the Council. However, there are a small number of complainants who, because of the frequency of their contact, interfere unreasonably with our operation or, hinder our consideration of their or other people’s, complaints. We refer to such complainants as ‘unreasonably persistent complainants’ and, exceptionally, we will take action to limit their contact with our offices.

The decision to restrict access to our offices will be taken at senior management level or above and will normally follow a prior warning to the complainant. Any restrictions imposed will be proportionate and appropriate. The options we are most likely to consider are

  • Requesting contact in a particular form (for example, letters only)
  • Requiring contact to take place with a named officer
  • Restricting telephone calls to specified days and times and/or
  • Asking the complainant to enter into an agreement about their future contacts with us.

In all cases where we decide to treat someone as an unreasonably persistent complainant, we will write to explain why their behaviour falls into that category, what action we are taking and the duration of that action. We will also tell explain how the decision can be challenged.

If we decide to continue to treat someone as an unreasonably persistent complainant and are still investigating their complaint six months later, we will carry out a review and decide if restrictions will continue. Where a complainant whose case is closed persists in communicating with us about it, we may decide to terminate contact with that complainant about the matter. In such cases, we will read all correspondence from that complainant, but unless there is fresh evidence which affects our decision we will simply acknowledge it or place it on the file without acknowledgement.

Where a complaint has exhausted all routes for investigation and is closed and the complainant persists in communicating with us, we may decide to terminate contact with them. In such cases, we will read all correspondence, but unless there is fresh evidence which affects our decision we will simply acknowledge it or place it on the file with no acknowledgement.

New complaints from people who have come under the unreasonably persistent complainants policy will be treated on their merits. This policy is in line with the Local Government Ombudsman’s guidance on unreasonable persistent complainants and unreasonable complaint behaviour.