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Corporate complaints procedure

If possible, complaints will be dealt with informally before they reach the stage of a formal complaint. We recognise that some customers will insist that they wish to go through the Corporate Complaint Procedure. For some types of complaint, this may be the most appropriate procedure. We have 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. They will be 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. They 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

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. A formal complaint about a decision of the Council, a Committee or the Executive may be made under this procedure and policy. This is provided it does not relate to the merits of the decision if there is another appeal process. It may relate, 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

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. The Director has overall responsibility for the consideration of the complaint.

The investigating officer may need to clarify with the customer the circumstances of the complaint, or seek to resolve the complaint.

The expected amount of time given for responding to a Stage One complaint in full is ten working days. The customer receives an acknowledgement of the receipt of the complaint from the Office of the Deputy Chief Executive within three working days.

If a complaint is complicated and likely to take longer to resolve, the investigating officer will set a reasonable and appropriate revised timescale. The investigating officer will 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. 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;
  • incomplete; or
  • wrong

they can request that the complaint is reviewed by a Panel of up to three Councillors. This is drawn from the Human Resources and Appeals Committee.

The request should be made in writing to the Deputy Chief Executive, Town Hall, Penrith CA11 7QF. This should be 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. The request should set out 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 Deputy Chief Executive.

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. 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 person's 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. 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 us the opportunity to investigate the complaint in the first instance.

If the LGO does become involved initial contact with us is made through the Deputy Chief Executive.

When we receive a complaint from the LGO, the case is referred to the relevant Director. This is to ensure appropriate action is taken in response.

We must submit a response to the LGO within the time period specified by the LGO.

The contact details for the Ombudsman for Cumbria are:

Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Coventry
CV4 0EH

  • Telephone: 0300 061 0614
  • Fax: 024 7682 0001
  • Text: ‘call back’ to 0762 480 4299

Further information about the Ombudsman service can be found on the Local Government Ombudsman website.

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. This is under the Localism Act 2011.

The complaint must be submitted in writing, using the on-line form, a letter, or email to the Deputy Chief Executive, 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. After consultation with the Independent Person and assessment panel, the Monitoring Officer will 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.

Complaints about the Chief Executive

Any request about the Chief Executive will be investigated by the Deputy Chief Executive. This is in consultation with the Leader of the Council.

Complaints monitoring

The Deputy Chief Executive will monitor performance by departments on an ongoing basis. The Deputy Chief Executive will report to Management Team and Councillors as required.

How to make a complaint

Anyone who wishes to make a complaint may do so: