Complaint resolution

Complaints to Council

Council recognises the importance of good complaints management and has developed a Complaint Resolution (PDF, 555KB)Policy(PDF, 555KB) to help try and resolve any issues raised.   

If you have a complaint you are encouraged in the first instance to resolve your own problem and to get more information about the relevant activity or service by checking out the council’s website or speaking to council staff.

If the initial communication with the council is not successful in resolving the problem, a complainant will be advised that they may consider making a more formal approach to council.

How to make a complaint to council

A person can make a complaint in a number of ways.

  • Contact council directly. If the matter cannot be resolved on the spot you will be advised of the next steps officers will take.

  • Put the complaint in writing to the Chief Executive Officer to assist the council in understanding the details of the complaint. 

Details on how you can do this can be found on the Contact Us page.

A staff member is available to help members of the public to make complaints, if needed.

 

Complaint Process

Overview

We take a four-tiered approach to the handling of administrative complaints, as follows:

1. frontline resolution: frontline staff receive the complaint, assess it, and resolve it immediately, if possible
  • We will acknowledge all complaints within 10 days of receipt.

  • Frontline staff will receive the complaint.

  • Frontline staff will clarify the complaint and the outcome the complainant is seeking.

  • Frontline staff will assess the complaint to determine how it should be dealt with.

  • If the agency is not the right organisation to respond to the complaint, frontline staff will advise
    the complainant of an organisation that may be able to help

2. investigation, if required: if frontline staff cannot resolve the complaint, they will refer it to an officer for investigation

  • The officer handling the complaint will advise the complainant that they are now the contact person and provide their details.

  • The contact person will inform the complainant how long it will take to respond to the complaint.

  • Complaint handling staff will aim to resolve all complaints within 28 days.

  • If it takes longer than 28 days to resolve a complaint, the contact person will contact the
    complainant prior to or at this time and explain why.

  • Complaints that are not resolved within 28 days may be escalated if necessary to ensure that a
    resolution is expedited.

  • The investigating officer will consider if an outcome letter is deemed appropriate based on the nature of the complaint and investigation.

3. internal review: if the complainant is aggrieved with the process or outcome of the frontline resolution/investigation, they can request an internal review

  • The relevant Director/Executive Manager will be responsible for an internal review

  • The internal review process will be completed within 28 days

  • An outcome letter signed the senior officer responsible for the internal review will be provided to the complainant at the conclusion of every internal review

  • The outcome letter will advise the complainant of any avenues of external review available in relation to the matter, such as the Victorian Ombudsman

4. access to external review: if the complainant is aggrieved with the process or outcome of the internal review, we inform them of any available external review options.

We will -

  • Commit to resolving complaints and have a culture that recognises an individual’s right to complain.  We value complaints and recognise them as being part of our business of serving our communities and improving service delivery.

  • Consider human rights and actively assist people with a range of needs to complain and navigate the complaints process.  We will treat everyone fairly and respectfully and consider human rights.

  • Be transparent and make it clear how to complain, where to complain and how the complaint will be handled. We will provide information requested by the complainant which is relevant to their complaint.

  • Be objective and fair and deal with complaints courteously, impartially and within established timeframes.  Complaints will be assessed on merit.

  • Protect complaint information according to privacy laws and other relevant legislation. We will only use personal information collected to deal with the complaint or to address any systemic issues arising from the complaint and only share personal information with officers on a ‘need to know’ basis. Complaint data will be de-identified if reported on more widely or released to the public.

  • Be accountable internally and externally for our decision making and complaint handling. performance. We will ensure that our decisions are subject to appropriate review processes.

  • Foster continuous improvement by acting on, learning from and using complaint data to identify problems and improve services.

  • 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.

  • Provide explanations and clear reasons for decisions.

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

  • investigate any complaints that fall outside of council’s jurisdiction.

 

    • 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 the 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 Conduct

     

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 the complainant if there is a public consultation process where they can participate.

Complaints about formal council decisions will be investigated by the CEO.

If customers want to find out about a council decision, the council minutes include both the report considered by the 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 council’s website in the council meeting directory.

 

We recognise that we retain a level of responsibility for services carried out by contractors on our
Behalf. Where council receives complaints about contractors council will monitor the way contractors deal with complaints and have clear oversight of their complaint handling process.

Contractors will liaise with the relevant staff member about the response to be provided to complaints.

If a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint, he or she can ask council to
review the decision.

All outcome letters written by contractors in relation to complaints will include the name and contact
details of the member of council staff to whom the complainant may escalate their complaint if they are
not satisfied with the outcome the contractor has provided. The member of council staff for the purposes of escalation of the complaint will be the responsible Director.

 

Whilst anonymous complaints will not be rejected, they may limit the ability of officers 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 and rectification will be 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.

 

These are complaints of corrupt or improper conduct by a public officer or body and the council’s Protected Disclosure Procedure is required to be made available on the council’s web page

Council officers will not tolerate behaviour that is offensive, abusive, threatening or consumes disproportionate resources.  All UCC incidents carry risks and in responding to a UCC incident, officers will assess the risks associated with the incident for themselves and third parties. Where required, officers will use strategies in the Ombudsman’s Unreasonable complainant conduct manual and Good Practice Guide to Dealing with Challenging Behaviour to manage these situations and the impact of the conduct/behaviour while recognising that the complainant may still have a valid grievance that needs to be addressed.

Strategies include, but are not limited to:

  • managing unreasonable persistence

  • managing unreasonable demands

  • managing an unreasonable lack of co-operation

  • managing unreasonable arguments

  • managing unreasonable behaviours

We will provide training opportunities for officers to assist them to deal with unreasonable complainant conduct and support officers where the conduct is affecting their wellbeing.


 

Occasionally Council receives 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.

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 the problem affects other people it is possible that their needs or views may be quite different from the complainant’s needs or views.  Alternatively, the council may not be able to afford the cost of works or services that could resolve the 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 a compromise or even acceptance that the Council cannot do what the complainant wants.  If this happens the council will give the complainant an explanation as to why it cannot do what was asked.

 

Finally, if the complainant is still not able to resolve the problem with the council, there are a number of organisations that can consider complaints relating to a council.

Each of these has specific roles and limitations.

Generally, the complainant should only take their concern to another organisation if they have been unable to resolve their complaint with council first.

Other organisations which may be able to assist with council complaints are :