Charnwood Borough Council recognises the importance of complaints and welcomes them as a valuable form of feedback about our services and those services provided by our contractors.
The Council will use this feedback to continually evolve and provide services to residents in the most effective and efficient ways.
Complaints offer an insight into the Council’s delivery of services and the aim of this policy and procedure is to deal with complaints in a fair, consistent and structured manner and provide an efficient and streamlined framework for doing so. It will also ensure that the Council can learn from complaints and use the information we gain to improve our services so that as a customer you have confidence that the same problem won’t occur again.
Emphasis is placed on resolving complaints as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure a satisfactory outcome for those involved.
Purpose and scope
This policy applies to all employees working for the Council, including those working from home or at non-Council locations. It also applies to consultants, agency staff and contractors working for the Council while engaged on Council business.
The complaints policy ensures that there is a clear and systematic process by which customers can seek redress for failures in service provision. The aims and objectives of the Council’s complaints policy are to give customers a fair, consistent and structured process to find a remedy when things have gone wrong.
This policy will seek to deliver the following results:
- Provide a resolution in accordance with the timescales stated
- Resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Learn from mistakes
- Identify and implement service improvements
Comments and compliments
The Council also wants to encourage customers to let it know when it has done something well or they have suggestions on how it can improve what it does.
A comment is a general statement about policies, practices, or a service as a whole, which have an impact on everyone and not just one individual. A comment can be positive or negative in nature. Comments may question policies and practices, make suggestions for new services or for improving existing services.
A compliment is an expression of satisfaction, thanks, praise, or congratulations.
What is a complaint?
The Council defines a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions, or lack of action by the Council, its staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual, resident or group of residents.
A complaint can be raised by anyone who has been affected by the actions or inactions of the Council. Complaints may, for example, be about:
- The lack of fairness or professionalism of interaction with officers
- Failure to do something we should have done
- Refusal to provide a service or delivery of poor service
- Failure to follow the correct policy, procedure, law or legislation
What is not a complaint under this policy?
Certain issues will not be dealt with through the Council’s complaints policy because there are other processes more suitable for dealing with them, or because they are outside the Council’s control. These include:
- Initial requests for service
- A complaint that has already been concluded as not being the fault of the Council
- Homelessness decisions and housing register banding decisions
- Outcome of planning applications
- Matters of law or central government policy e.g. Council tax legislation
- The correct application of Council policy, or to matters for which there is a right of appeal (an appeal within the Council or to an independent tribunal)
- Complaints where the customer or the Council have started legal proceedings
- Complaints which have already been decided by a court or independent tribunal
- Complaints from staff about personnel matters, including appointments, dismissals, pay, pensions, and discipline. These are dealt with under the Council’s HR procedures
- Complaints relating to Freedom of Information (FOI), Environment Information Regulations (EIR), Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Data Protection legislation, including data breaches
Services for which there are alternative statutory appeal or tribunal processes, such as:
- Planning, including, consent, refusals and enforcement decisions
- Regulatory (Environmental Health, Licensing, & Community Safety)
- Council tax and Housing benefit
- Appeals against statutory notices
- Insurance claims
- Parking appeals/notices
- Elected members (Councillor’s) conduct
What is the time limit for making complaints?
It is far easier to find out what happened and to put things right if complaints are received at the time of the incident. As time passes it becomes more difficult to investigate events fairly and fully – people’s memories fade, staff who were closely involved may have left the Council, or records may no longer be available.
For these reasons, the Council will normally only accept complaints made within six months of the incident or circumstances that led to it. However, if the complaint relates to safeguarding, health and safety issues or there are exceptional circumstances provided by the complainant for the delay in submitting the complaint, the Council may make a discretionary decision to consider the matter.
Is there a deadline for escalating a complaint?
If a complainant remains dissatisfied with the response to their stage 1 complaint, they can escalate to stage two of the complaints process. Escalation requests must be received within 28 days of the stage 1 response. Requests made after the 28-day deadline will only be considered where there are extenuating circumstances. All requests to escalate a complaint must provide clear reasons for dissatisfaction.
Who can make a complaint?
Complaints may be made by anyone who is affected, either because the Council (or someone acting on its behalf) has failed to do something they should have done or have done something to an unsatisfactory standard.
The Council values all complaints including those made anonymously. Generally, anonymous complaints will be considered if there is enough information in the complaint to enable the Council to make further enquiries. If an anonymous complaint is received, this will be recorded as anonymous. If an anonymous complaint does not provide enough information to enable further action to be taken, the decision may be made to not process it. This judgement will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Complainants affected may choose to ask someone else to complain on their behalf, such as relative, carer or friend. Complaints can also be made through a Councillor, Member of Parliament, or another elected person. Correspondence from these individuals will be dealt with in accordance with the procedures for handling MPs and Councillor’s enquiries.
Where appropriate, the Council will seek consent from the service user to correspond with a third party on their behalf. This ensures compliance with data protection requirements and that the service user’s wishes are being fulfilled.
If a complaint is received from a vulnerable adult who does not have the capacity to consent, the Council will decide how to progress the matter in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Where appropriate, complainants will be signposted to relevant advocacy services.
How to make a complaint?
A key priority of the Council is to make it easy for residents to contact the Council by providing different channels.
The Council encourage customers where possible, to submit any feedback or complaint via the online form below:
- By telephone: 01509 263151
- Post: Customer Experience Team, Charnwood Borough Council, Southfields, Loughborough, LE11 2TX
Complaints received via social media will be forwarded to the relevant service area and handled in keeping with this policy.
The complaints process
In the first instance the Council will review the complaint to see if it fits the definition of a complaint. If it is a request for a service or a comment on services, it will not be treated as a formal complaint.
The Council’s complaints policy operates a formal two stage complaints process as set out below. The Council will acknowledge all complaints within five working days of receipt. The acknowledgement will include:
- The Council’s understanding of the complaint
- The outcomes the complainant is seeking
- The date the response will be provided
The complainant may be asked for more information or details of how they would like to resolve the matter if they have not already communicated this when they made the complaint.
Some complaints may be of a complex nature and will require additional time to those specified above, in these cases, the Council may request an extension of the deadline by a further ten working days.
Where a complaint investigation is likely to exceed the additional ten working days extension period, the investigating officer will discuss and agree a revised deadline with the complainant. If agreement over an extension period cannot be reached, the Council will provide the complainant with the relevant Ombudsman’s details to enable the complainant to challenge the extension.
The Council will not request more than one extension to a complaint deadline.
Where the complaint is upheld, the response will contain:
- An explanation of what happened and why things went wrong
- An explanation of the decision
- An apology
- Details of the corrective action to be taken, including timescales
- The name of the officer responsible for ensuring that action is taken and their contact details
- Actions taken to prevent a recurrence of the problem
- Actions the complainant must take (if any)
Where the complaint is not upheld the response will provide:
- Background information relevant to the complaint
- An explanation of the decision
All decision letters will provide details of how to escalate the complaint where a complainant remains dissatisfied.
Once a complaint has exhausted the complaints process, the Council will not accept a further complaint about the matter.
Stage 1 complaint
Stage 1 is the first formal stage of the complaint’s policy. The Council will direct a complaint to a senior officer / manager within the relevant department who will respond directly to the complainant.
The outcome of the investigation will be confirmed in writing clearly stating what decision has been reached within 10 working days.
The response will also inform the complainant that if they remain unhappy with the outcome or the way the complaint has been handled, they have the right to request a review of their complaint under stage 2 of the policy. This must be done within 28 days of receiving the stage 1 response.
Stage 2 complaint
If a complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome at stage 1, they can ask for the complaint to be reviewed at stage 2. The stage 2 investigation will be undertaken by an independent member of the Customer Experience Team who has not been involved in the matter previously.
The aim of the stage 2 process is to review the handling and outcome of the stage 1 complaint, it cannot consider new complaints or information that has not been investigated at stage 1. In cases where the stage 1 is upheld and the Council has admitted failures, the stage 2 process will only review the remedies offered.
The outcome of the investigation will be confirmed in writing clearly stating the decision within 20 working days.
When at fault, the Council needs to put things right by acknowledging the mistakes, apologising for them, explaining why things went wrong and what they will do to prevent the same mistake happening again. This should happen at the earliest possible point in the process.
Where practical, the aim is to put the customer back in the position they would have been if there had been no fault, a remedy could include:
- A written apology
- Corrective action
- Update and correct policies, procedures or practices
- Financial redress
Where a complainant owes money to the Council, for example for rent or Council Tax arrears, any financial redress will be offset against the debt. This will not be the case if there is a legitimate dispute about the debt (for example, there is a benefit claim pending); or if financial redress is for a specific purpose (for example, to decorate after repairs); or to replace damaged possessions.
Matters relating to Officer conduct will not be shared with the complainant, these will be dealt with internally and where appropriate, under the Council’s HR disciplinary policies.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) and the Housing Ombudsman (HO) consider complaints about public bodies including local authorities. The Ombudsman services investigates complaints about poor service, failure to provide a service and administrative failure.
The HO investigates complaints between tenants and a social landlord. If after going through both formal stages of the Council’s policy a complainant remains unhappy with the way their complaint has been handled, they have the right to complain to the relevant Ombudsman.
To determine which Ombudsman to send your enquiry to, visit the LGO website.
In most cases, the Ombudsman will normally only consider complaints if the complainant has exhausted the Council’s complaints policy. However, the Ombudsman has discretion to investigate a complaint prior to the Council conducting its own investigation. For example, where the Ombudsman deems the complainant to be vulnerable or the case raises an issue of general concern to the public.
Contact details for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman:
Telephone: 0300 061 0614
Contact details for the Housing Services Ombudsman:
Telephone: 0300 111 3000
Vexatious and unreasonably persistent customers
The purpose of the complaints procedure is to find out what went wrong and try to put things right for the future. As part of this service the Council does not normally limit the contact that customers have with its staff.
The Vexatious and Unreasonably Persistent Customer Policy identifies situations where a customer, either individually or as part of a group, or a group of customers, might be considered as ‘unreasonably persistent or vexatious’ and proportionate ways of responding to these situations.
Performance and monitoring
The monitoring and review of complaints give valuable information about customer perception and service performance and identify areas of organisational learning from complaints to drive service improvement.
This information will be used to produce management reports to monitor service performance, highlight areas of service failure and gaps in provision and identify areas for service improvement.
To assist with the Council’s service improvement agenda individuals who have made a complaint may be contacted to seek views on their experience of the process.
Equalities and diversity monitoring
Equality monitoring is the collection of information about the characteristics of people such as their age, disability, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Having this kind of information about customers helps the Council to make sure services are delivered fairly to everyone.
Data protection and retention of information
All complaints will be handled in accordance with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 The handling and storage of personal data will be handled and retained in accordance with the Council’s Data Protection Policy. Please refer to the relevant webpages:
Last updated: Tue 28th November, 2023 @ 17:11