If at all possible complaints will be dealt with informally before they reach the stage of a formal complaint. However, we recognise that some customers will insist that they wish to go through the Corporate Complaint Procedure and for some types of complaint, this may be the most appropriate procedure. The Council has a two stage procedure that is designed to support the effective management of complaints.
When a customer cannot be provided with a full response within the timescales quoted the customer will be notified as soon as possible and given a revised timescale as to when they can expect a full response to their complaint.
It is expected that complaints will go through each stage in turn and should only be escalated to the next stage if the customer believes that the response is unclear, unhelpful, incomplete or wrong in some respect.
Complaints about decisions made by Councillors
On occasions complaints may be made about a decision which has been made by the Council, a Committee or the Executive. There may be a formal appeal process to another body about the merits of the decision itself. A formal complaint about a decision of the Council, a Committee or the Executive may be made under this procedure and policy provided it does not relate to the merits of the decision if there is another appeal process and relates, for example, to the procedure or process which was adopted. A complaint about a decision of the Council, a Committee or the Executive will be considered at Stage 2. The Panel of Councillors who consider the complaint, if possible, should not have been involved previously in the subject matter of the complaint.
Stage one complaints
All Stage One formal complaints will be referred to the Director who has responsibility for the relevant service. The Director may allocate the investigation of the complaint to a service manager within his / her service but the Director has overall responsibility for the consideration of the complaint.
It may be necessary for the investigating officer to clarify with the customer the circumstances of the complaint or to seek to resolve the complaint.
The expected amount of time given for responding to a Stage One complaint in full is ten working days, with a customer receiving an acknowledgement of the receipt of the complaint from the Office of the Director of Governance within three working days.
If, however, a complaint is complicated and likely to take longer to resolve the investigating officer will set a reasonable and appropriate revised timescale and keep the customer informed of this and of its progress.
An investigation may involve interviews with relevant staff and appropriate witnesses.
The investigating officer will produce a written response to the complaint. The response will set out:
- the Investigating Officer's findings
- any recommendations
- any proposals
- whether or not the complaint has been resolved
Where appropriate an apology will be given and it may be that a previous decision will be reviewed and any relevant procedure or practice revised.
Stage two complaints
If after receipt of the response to the formal complaint the customer is still dissatisfied because they believe the response at Stage One is considered to be unclear, unhelpful or incomplete, or wrong they can request that the complaint is reviewed by a Panel of up to three Councillors drawn from the Human Resources and Appeals Committee.
The request should be made in writing to the Director of Governance, Town Hall, Penrith, CA11 7QF within ten working days of the response to the Stage One complaint.
The request should set out the reasons why a review is considered necessary and why the customer is dissatisfied with the response given at Stage One.
The request will be acknowledged within three working days by the Office of the Director of Governance.
A review hearing will be arranged as soon as practicable and within twenty working days of the request whenever possible.
A formal procedure will be adopted at the hearing although the process and atmosphere of the meeting itself should be informal. The customer may attend in person or give their comments and concerns in writing. He or she will be invited to explain why he or she is dissatisfied and to explain the nature of the complaint.
Normally a customer would not be expected to have someone to represent him or her. A representative may be appropriate if the persons first language is not English or he or she has a disability which would place him or her at a disadvantage. If a customer thinks that they should have representation this should be mentioned when the hearing is requested.
The Panel of Councillors will notify the customer of their decision in writing within five working days of the hearing.
Where appropriate, an apology will be given and it may be that a previous decision will be reviewed and any relevant procedure or practice revised.
Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) complaints
Although a customer can take a complaint to the LGO at any stage, customers are expected to give the Council the opportunity to investigate the complaint in the first instance.
If the LGO does become involved initial contact with the Council is made through the Director of Governance.
When the Council receives a complaint from the LGO the case is referred to the relevant Director to ensure appropriate action is taken in response.
The Council must submit a response to the LGO within the time period specified by the LGO.
Complaints about the conduct of Councillors
A complaint about the conduct of a Member of Eden District Council (or a Parish Council) will be dealt with under the arrangements for dealing with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011.
The complaint must be submitted in writing, using the on-line form, a letter or email to the Director of Governance who is the Monitoring Officer.
The Monitoring Officer will review every complaint received where a Member has alleged to have breached the Code of Conduct and, after consultation with the Independent Person and assessment panel, take a decision on what action should be taken.
Complaints made by other Council officers
Officers working for the Council, at some time, may need to make a complaint as a customer of the Council. Officers making a formal complaint still need to comply with this policy.
Officers handling staff complaints need to deal with the complaint like any other complaint received from members of the public by following this policy.
Staff should ensure:
- Letters are sent to the staff member's home address
- Email contact is to their private email address
- Meetings are arranged in a proper manner
- Complaint updates do not take place, in passing, in the corridor
- Progress chasing should be made using the proper channels and not by using access to databases
The Director of Governance will monitor performance by departments on an ongoing basis and report to Management Team and Councillors as required.
How to make a complaint
Anyone who wishes to make a complaint may do so:
For further information:
- Contact: Director of Governance
- Telephone: 01768 817 817
- Address: Eden District Council, Town Hall, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 7QF