Complaints, compliments and suggestions policy

Scope of the policy

The policy applies to all complaints with the following exclusions:

  • A request for a service, or where there has been an operational failure which is easily rectified, e.g. a report of litter in a park, or a missed bin collection.
  • Complaints made about elected members - a separate procedure exist for such complaints and these should be made to the monitoring officer.
  • A complaint about a decision of full council, cabinet or other decision-making committee which can only be challenged via a judicial review.
  • A complaint about planning decision. Applicants who are unhappy about a planning decision should follow the planning appeal process. Whilst the complaints policy will not be used to address complaints about the outcome of a planning decision, it can be used to investigate complaints about the procedures and processes used to arrive at a decision. 
  • Complaints which may lead to an insurance claim are referred directly to the insurance officer to be handled by our insurance company.
  • Contractual disputes that have not exhausted the dispute resolution outlined in the contract.
  • A complaint that has been considered by the Local Government Ombudsman and closed.
  • A complaint that is subject to, or has already been through, court or tribunal proceedings, or there is a separate appeals process to a court or tribunal service.
  • Complaints regarding operational matters at Burntwood or Friary Grange leisure centres, or at the Lichfield Garrick. Complainants should address such complaints to the leisure centre operator (Freedom) or to the theatre operator (the Lichfield Garrick Trust).
  • Complaints, because of their nature, that are better considered through our whistleblowing policy.
  • Complaints about the loss of personal data. Where such loss is accepted, the council will seek advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Anonymous complaints will be noted and reviewed to determine whether there is merit in an investigation.

Specific complaints made on behalf of other customers cannot be accepted unless authority to respond is given by the customer concerned. Similarly, complaints registered by an individual cannot be discussed with relatives or partners unless authority to respond is granted by that individual.

We are not obliged to respond to complaints that are vexatious, oppressive, threatening or abusive. These are seen as complaints which are without foundation and/or which are intended to result in harsh or wrongful treatment of the person who is the subject of the complaint. In these types of circumstances a complaint will not be taken forward by  us.

If the Local Government Ombudsman receives a complaint before it has been investigated by the council, it will be passed to the council to investigate in line with this policy.

The definitions for the purpose of this policy:

  • A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction received from a customer about the council’s service provision or implementation of policy.
  • A complaint may be about a lack of response, poor service, delays in service being provided, one–off or ongoing problems and /or about the behaviour or attitude of council employees, or contractors.
  • Complaints can be made in writing, electronically or verbally.

A request for a service e.g. noise complaint, an appeal for assistance, or a request for a repair is a not considered a complaint. A request for service can however become a complaint if no action is taken to deal with the service request, where the quality of service is poor, decisions do not follow council policy, or where insufficient information has been provided or information is misleading.

Wherever possible, we will seek to discuss the issues with the complainant in order to fully understand their concerns and find out what changes or outcome they want to see.

If the issue can be satisfactorily resolved at first point of contact or via informal resolution, no further action is needed and the complaint does not need to be recorded formally. A good example of this would be someone complaining about toilets being dirty, and a staff member resolving the problem straight away.

If it is clear the complainant remains unhappy this should be handled as a formal complaint and formally recorded.

About unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants

We have adopted the Local Government Ombudsman’s definition: Unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants who, because of the nature or frequency of their contacts with an organisation, hinder the organisation’s consideration of their, or other people’s, complaints. Any complainant who meets this definition will be contacted to make them aware of how their complaint will be dealt with and how they may complain to us in future.

About compliments

We consider a compliment as an unsolicited expression of praise or admiration from a customer, which is over and above common courtesy. Compliments can be received by phone, email, in writing or through the online form. We will consider the acknowledgement of formal compliments on a case by case basis.

Any compliments received will be fed back to the member of staff concerned.

Suggestions

Where suggestions are provided these will be passed to the relevant officer or head of service for consideration.

Fluency duty

For the purposes of the fluency duty, a legitimate complaint is one about the standard of spoken English by a member of staff in a public facing role. A complaint about a member of staffʹs accent, dialect, manner or tone of communication, origin or nationality would not be considered a legitimate complaint about the fluency duty.