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Complaints

We realise that, even in the best run organisations, there may be times when things go wrong and customers may not be happy with the service they receive.

If this happens then customers should let us know. We will do all we can to investigate and solve problems as quickly as possible. In the first instance, if possible, we will see if we can get things sorted informally and promptly.

Our complaints procedure aims to:

  • Be easily available, well publicised and simple to use.
  • Show clearly how a complaint will be dealt with and by whom.
  • Respect confidentiality.
  • Be impartial.
  • Make recommendations to avoid future complaints.
  • Treat people fairly.

What is a complaint?

We think that a complaint is 'an expression of dissatisfaction about a Council service'.

A complaint could be, for example, in relation to:

  • A delay in taking action without good reason.
  • A failure to provide a service.
  • A mistake in the way a decision has been taken.
  • Not following the law or the Council's own policies
  • Giving incorrect or misleading information.
  • Bias or unfair discrimination.
  • Rude, unhelpful, or inappropriate behaviour by staff.
  • Poor or inadequate communication.
  • The conduct of staff when delivering the service

A complaint can fall broadly into one of three categories:

  • A complaint about a service.
  • A complaint about a member of staff.
  • A complaint about a policy.

Exceptions

Certain types of issues and complaints fall outside of the complaints policy and procedure because there are other processes more suitable for dealing with them, or because they are outside of our control. These include:

  • Matters of law or central government policy.

  • Complaints from Council staff about employment-related issues, including appointments, dismissals, pay, pensions and discipline. These are dealt with separately under our Human Resources policies and procedures.

  • Commercial or contractual matters, for example, contracts for the supply of goods and services to us. Complaints about the negotiation of our leases or the disposal of our land may be dealt with through this policy and procedure.

  • Complaints where a customer, or we,  has started legal proceedings, but not where a customer has only threatened legal action.

  • Complaints that have already been decided by a Court or independent tribunal will not be accepted, but complaints about the implementation of a Court or tribunal's decision will be investigated.

  • Disagreement with a planning permission, enforcement decision, or other consent, under planning legislation.
  • Services for which there are alternative statutory, appeal, tribunal or other processes, including appeals against the refusal of planning permission, or planning enforcement, a refusal to grant or renew a licence, or appeals against statutory notices, parking charges and housing benefit.

A planning decision is binding and there is no right of appeal except by the recipient to the Planning Inspectorate.  A third party may challenge a planning decision through judicial review. There is no scope for our complaints process to set aside a planning permission, enforcement decision or other consent under planning legislation.

Where a customer is unhappy about the outcome of an appeal or tribunal decision, there are separate review procedures that remain outside of this policy and procedure and our jurisdiction. However, when a customer is unhappy about the way that an appeal was handled, for example, a delay in preparing our submission to the Housing Benefit Appeals Service, this may be dealt with under our complaint policy and procedure.

If in doubt, the complaint will be recorded and investigated. The complainant will be encouraged to clarify the full details of the complaint so that the issue can be properly assessed. If it is decided not to accept the complaint, a customer should be given a clear explanation as to why and, if possible, an alternative approach should be given.

Where a complaint is about a single service failure, for example, a missed refuse bag collection, it will be logged and dealt with promptly as a service request without having to go through the complaint procedure. However, if the complaint is that the refuse bags are being missed regularly, then this may be dealt with according to the complaint procedure. In the same way, if the complaint is about a noisy neighbour, this will be passed to the Environmental Health Section to be dealt with as a service request.

Anonymous complaints

A judgement will be made on a case-by-case basis as to whether to look into an anonymous complaint. Normally, anonymous complaints will not be investigated. When an anonymous complaint is made, it will obviously not be possible for a response to be provided to that customer.

How to complain

Customers can make a complaint in the most appropriate way. We encourage any customer who has a concern or suggestion about a particular service to make contact with us straight away, where the aim will be to resolve the issue promptly. Contact can be made:

  • In person at: Town Hall, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 7QF
  • In writing a letter to: Eden District Council, Town Hall, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 7QF
  • Email: customer.services@eden.gov.uk
  • Telephone: 01768 817 817

If the complaint is resolved at the first point of contact it will be recorded so we have greater awareness and understanding of customer issues.

To make a formal complaint:

Please read our complaints procedure before making a formal complaint. A formal complaint can be made in one of the following ways:

Assistance will be provided if customers need help in gaining access to any of these methods of contact.

Complainants may wish to have a third party act on their behalf. A third party is any person or organisation acting on behalf of, or making enquiries for, the complainant. For example, third parties may include:

  • advice organisations
  • professionals, such as social workers, community psychiatric nurses, doctors or solicitors
  • family members or friends

Where a third party is helping a complainant with a particular complaint, we need the complainant to tell us that they want contact to be through the third party. Where we have this authority we will take all possible steps to keep the third party informed of progress on the complaint.

A written or emailed complaint will be acknowledged within five working days. A complaint may not be accepted if it is believed to be vexatious, repetitious, or is inappropriate in any other respect.

Complaints about Councillors

For information on making a complaint about a District Councillor, or Parish Councillors for Eden District, see standards of conduct in local government.