Complaints to Council
Northern Grampians Shire Council recognises the importance of good complaints management as part of a quality customer service system and has developed quality Citizen Engagement Standards(PDF, 55KB) that outline our commitment to customer service.
Council welcomes the opportunity to try and resolve issues raised. While most problems can be resolved by an initial communication with Council officers there may be times when it is necessary to make a more formal complaint. If it is necessary to make a formal complaint it should be lodged first with Council for investigation and resolution before making a formal complaint to another organisation.
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the level and quality of service provided by Council staff, Councillor/s, and/or contractors, or as a result of Council’s systems, policies or procedures. It should not be trivial, frivolous or vexatious and should contain sufficient information/detail to ensure the complaint can be investigated in full and in a timely fashion. The complaint must relate to matters that Council has the jurisdiction to resolve.
It may help you to resolve your problem if you get more information about the relevant activity or service by checking out this website or speaking to Council staff.
If your initial communication with the Council does not resolve your problem, you may consider making a more formal approach to Council.
There are two different types of complaints, each requiring a different form of response-
Formal complaints about matters that relate to an action or decision made by Council staff.
Formal Council decisions -
Sometimes a matter relates to a Council decision. As Council staff are required to implement the Council’s decisions, it may require a formal Council decision to resolve the particular problem.
If you want to find out about a Council decision, the Council minutes include both the report considered by Council and the precise wording of the Council decision. Some reports such as contracts are confidential and in these instances only the decision will be published. Minutes are available for public inspection at the Council’s offices and are also published on the internet in our Council Meetings Directory.
Making a Complaint to Council
To make a complaint with Council, you can:
- Contact Council directly. Council staff will be happy to discuss your concerns with you. If the matter cannot be resolved on the spot you will be advised of the next steps we will take.
- Put your complaint in writing to the Chief Executive Officer to assist Council in understanding the details of the complaint. A staff member is available to help you to do this if necessary.
- Our online form
Details on how you can do this can be found on our Council Contact page.
Interpreter services are available for non-English speaking customers by phoning the Translating & Interpreting Service on 13 14 50.
- deal with complaints professionally, promptly and impartially
- provide information requested by the complainant which is relevant to their complaint
- provide any information about the complaint process including any timelines for a final response
- document all complaints and identify what steps have been taken to redress the complaint and to minimise any chance of re-occurrence
- provide any assistance to the complainant necessary to enable the complaint to be dealt with in an effective manner
- ensure all staff understand the complaints process
- respond to all complaints, including verbal complaints where appropriate, in writing
- provide information to affected people as to their rights of appeal or review if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the general complaints process.
We will not
- investigate any complaint if the complainant abuses, harasses or threatens the safety or welfare of Council staff;
- investigate any complaint if the complainant remains anonymous and the complainant is abusive or derogatory of Council staff or Councillors; or
- investigate any complaints that fall outside of Council’s jurisdiction.
The CEO is appointed by Council to employ and manage all staff and to ensure Council decisions are implemented.
You can reasonably expect the CEO to give your complaint proper consideration, or direct it to an appropriate person to consider, and you should receive a helpful response. Please allow sufficient time to resolve the complaint. Council will endeavour to resolve all complaints within one month; however, where the matter is more complex this time period may be significantly extended.
The staged process that will be followed is set out below :
Stage 1: When we receive an administrative complaint it will be investigated by the service area that provided you the service. If it is a complaint about a staff member, that person’s manager/coordinator will resolve it with you. If you are not satisfied with the response or the way in which your complaint was handled and believe there is sufficient grounds you can ask for your complaint to be referred to a Stage 2 review.
Stage 2: If your complaint reaches this stage it will be investigated by a Director of the department and a response provided as quickly as possible. If you are still not happy with the response to this review you can refer your complaint to the Chief Executive Officer for a Stage 3 review.
Stage 3: The Chief Executive Officer will review the case and provide a response. It is important to understand that all complaints will start at Stage 1. Where a complaint is directed to the CEO it will be passed back to the relevant department to enable Stage 1 of the process to be conducted.
A response from the CEO may:
- lead to a resolution of your problem
- result in an alternative solution that partly resolves your problem, and/or
- provide an explanation about why the problem cannot be resolved
Formal Council decisions
Possible ways to raise a concern with Council include:
- speaking with, or writing to, Councillors
- requesting to speak on a matter at a meeting of the Council or committee
- raising the matter during public question time at a Council meeting
In some cases the process of making formal Council decisions involves public consultation and Council staff will be able to advise you if there is a public consultation process where you can participate.
Complaints about formal Council decisions will be investigated by the Chief Executive Officer.
Once a complaint is investigated and it has been determined that the organisation has made an error, it will undertake appropriate action to redress the situation.
All remedies need to be fair to the affected person and to Council. There will be occasions when an error is irreversible and the only practical remedy available is an apology and action taken to prevent similar errors in the future.
Responses deemed appropriate and reasonable to remedy errors and/or deficiencies in policies may include but are not limited to:
- an apology
- an explanation (via department or media enquiry)
- a change in decision
- repair or rework
- a change to a policy or local law
- waiving of a fine
- refunding or making financial adjustments for underpayment or overpayment made
- correction of incorrect or misleading records
Whilst anonymous complaints will not be rejected, they may limit our ability to fully investigate the problem depending on the amount of information supplied.
If the complaint/request appears to relate to public safety then an investigation will be undertaken and rectification undertaken if found necessary.
If the complainant remains anonymous and the complainant is abusive or derogatory of Council staff or Councillors no further action will be taken.
Due to the anonymity, Council will be unable to provide reasons for any decisions or actions taken. If insufficient information is deemed to have been supplied, no further action will be taken.
Protected Disclosure complaints
These are complaints of corrupt or improper conduct by a public officer or body and more information can be found on our web page.
What is not considered a complaint?
- A request for service and/or action by Council
- Reports of a hazard (eg fallen tree)
- Reports concerning neighbours that trigger the legislation, local law or other regulations administered or enforced by Council to be enacted (eg dog barking, noise issues)
- A request for information or an explanation of a policy or procedure
- Decisions made under legislation which provides for separate avenues of appeal (eg Building Act decisions and General Local Law prosecutions)
- An alleged breach under the Councillor Code of Governance
Occasionally we receive a complaint involving neighbours which in many instances cannot be resolved by Council. On these occasions Council may direct complainants to other resources including the Dispute Settlement Centre on 1800 658 528, the Law Handbook www.lawhandbook.org.au and Reaching Agreement www.disputes.vic.gov.au.
Understanding broader constraints
Council has to act in the best interests of the entire community and will have to take account of other people’s needs as well as financial and legal restrictions.
If your problem affects other people it is possible that their needs or views may be quite different from your own. Alternatively the Council may not be able to afford the cost of works or services that could resolve your problem or it may be unable to do something because of laws that prevent or require particular actions.
In the end there may need to be compromise or even acceptance that Council cannot do what you want. If this happens we will give you an explanation as to why we cannot do what you have asked.
Complaining to another organisation
Finally, if you are still not able to resolve your problem with us, there are a number of organisations that can consider complaints relating to a Council. Each of these have specific roles and limitations.
Generally you should only take your concern to another organisation if you have been unable to resolve your complaint with us first.
Other organisations which may be able to assist with Council complaints are :