Feedback, comments and complaints
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Our complaints procedure can be used for any type of formal complaint and for any service we provide.
There is a separate complaints procedure regarding councillors.
Complaints against elected members can be submitted to our monitoring officer. You can contact our monitoring office online or by calling 023 8028 5000.
Our aim is to swiftly investigate all corporate complaints with impartiality and find solutions locally whenever possible to the satisfaction of both complainant and the council. Remember, a quick phone call may be quite effective in settling your concerns. Do not worry if you do not know exactly who to speak to. You can call 023 8028 5000 and we will help put you in touch with the right person.
The Executive Head of Governance & Housing is responsible for the complaints procedure on behalf of the Chief Executive.
What is a complaint?
A complaint is "an expression of dissatisfaction about the conduct, standard of service, actions or lack of action by the New Forest District Council or its staff".
In some cases complaints received will be minor day-to-day concerns which will amount to service enquiries or representations rather than formal complaints and can be addressed informally by the service provider. The complaints procedure is not intended for cases where the council has taken a decision in a proper manner or for an explanation of a decision.
There are certain types of complaints that we cannot investigate. These might include:
- anonymous complaints
- cases where other rights of appeal exist (e.g. against refusal of planning permission or housing benefit assessment)
- routine requests for service (e.g. noisy neighbours, barking dogs), unless such a request has been dealt with improperly or with undue delay
- cases where an immediate response can be given (e.g. where uncollected refuse is picked up quickly after notification)
- cases where the council has started legal proceedings or has taken court action, or for example, when a debt is owing to the council.
There are times when a 'complaint' is not a complaint, for example, if we are informed that a rubbish bag has not been collected, this will be recorded as a 'service request'. However, if this has not been attended to within a reasonable time and gives the customer, resident or visitor cause to contact us again, then this will become a complaint.
All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the following principles:
- we will acknowledge the complaint within 5 working days and inform the complainant that it will be looked into and we will give the name of an employee to whom further enquiries can be made
- we aim to inform the complainant of the result of the investigation within 15 working days (after acknowledgement) and if this is not possible we will advise the complainant
- when responding we will advise the complainant of who they can appeal to if they remain dissatisfied
- we will keep the complainant informed. If an unavoidable delay occurs we will notify the complainant
- we will record the complaint and this record includes:
- full name and address of complainant
- details of the complaint including relevant dates
- action taken
- employee dealing with the complaint.
- we will keep all information confidential, particularly names and address that can identify a complainant, site or complaint, although we may be obliged to disclose some information under certain statutory provisions.
How we deal with complaints
We operate a 3-stage complaint process which reflects the practice adopted by many local authorities and is recommended by the Local Government Ombudsman. Following the completion of each stage the complainant will have the right to request that the complaint is escalated to the next stage of the process. This procedure is designed to support the effective management of complaints.
Level 1: a complaint is sent to the supervisor or service
The manager of the service is responsible for the supervisor and ensuring that the complaint is acknowledged. The service manager records and looks into the complaint thoroughly. The response will inform the complainant that if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint, they may appeal to the Executive Head.
Level 2: a second or more serious complaint
The Executive Head is responsible for the complaint. Each Executive Head will consider complaints against their service where the complainant has appealed from Level 1 and in circumstances where the Executive Head wishes to deal with personally. In the reply the Executive Head will inform the complainant that if the outcome is not satisfactory, an appeal can be made to the Executive Head of Governance & Housing on behalf of the Chief Executive.
Complaints where a complainant is dissatisfied
A review is carried out by an Executive Head. The reply will inform the complainant that if he or she behalf of the Chief Executive is not satisfied with the outcome, a request for a review may be made to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Putting things right
Every effort will be made to resolve complaints without undue delay. The complaints procedure is designed to put things right if something has not been done correctly, and if that's not possible, we will explain why.
The role of the council's Chief Executive
The final stage of our complaints procedure is dealt with by the Executive Head of Governance & Housing on behalf of the Chief Executive.
At this stage, the Executive Head of Governance & Housing ensures that the Chief Executive is aware of the complaint and the response to it. At any stage, the Chief Executive may personally deal with any complaint using whatever procedure they consider appropriate.
Still not satisfied?
If you remain dissatisfied after you have completed our complaints procedure, you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman which acts as a watchdog for local government issues.
The Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Coventry CV4 0EH
Telephone: 0300 061 0614
Council housing matters
If you are a council tenant and your complaint is against the council as your landlord, you have the right to ask for your complaint to be considered by the Housing Ombudsman Service.
Housing Ombudsman Service
PO Box 152
Liverpool L33 7WQ
Persistent or unreasonable complainants
In a minority of cases people can pursue their complaints in a way which impedes looking into a complaint, has significant resource issues for the council or is unreasonable. We define persistent or unreasonable complainants as "those complainants who, because of the frequency or nature of their contacts with the council, unreasonably hinder the work of the council".
It is important to differentiate between complainants who pursue their complaints with vigour and those who act unreasonably.
Examples of what could be defined as persistent or unreasonable are:
- refusing to specify the complaint despite offers by the council to help
- refusing to co-operate with the investigation while expecting the complaint to be resolved
- refusing to accept the complaint cannot be resolved by the complaints procedure despite being provided with information on this
- making groundless complaints about employees and demanding they are replaced
- adopting a 'scattergun' approach by either submitting a complaint to a number of different people at the council (such as the service involved, the Information Compliance & Complaints Officer, Chief Executive, Leader, or Chairman) or pursuing a complaint with the council while asking others (MPs, Local Government Ombudsman, Police, Courts etc.) to do the same
- making excessive demands on the time and resources of employees and specifically pursuing a campaign against the council and phoning or emailing frequently, or consistently writing letters
- recording conversations with officers without prior knowledge of those present
- submitting repeat complaints on the same topic after the complaints process has been completed insisting there are 'new' complaints
- refusing to accept the decision and repeatedly arguing the point and complaining about the decision
- pursuing unreasonable complaints that provide no, or inadequate, details to substantiate the allegation of wrong-doing/error on the part of the council.
All complaints will be considered thoroughly and fully. However if a complainant is felt to be acting unreasonably the employee should seek confirmation from the Executive Head of Governance & Housing that the complainant can be regarded as persistent or unreasonable in accordance with this policy. The following procedures will then be followed.
Where a complaint has been dealt with
The Executive Head of Governance & Housing will write to the complainant explaining why the decision has been taken and stating no further correspondence will be undertaken on the complaint or the issues they have raised. All correspondence received will be read and placed on file.
Additionally, the Executive Head of Governance & Housing may take any additional or further necessary action to prevent the unnecessary misuse of public resources on the part of the persistent complainant.
A copy of this procedure is to be enclosed and the right of appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman will be included in the letter.
Where the investigation is ongoing
The Executive Head of Governance & Housing will write to the complainant explaining why the decision has been taken. This may include:
- stating all future contact whether by phone, fax, email, letter etc. will be directed to the Executive Head of Governance & Housing (or appropriate nominated officer) only; or
- explaining that contact with officers will be limited to once a week or other appropriate timescale; or
- requiring any personal contacts to be in the presence of named witness(es); or
- stating no further complaints on the same matter will be registered until the present complaint has been determined; or
- stating the investigation has been terminated and referred to the local government.
The above list is not exhaustive and decisions will be made on the appropriate way forward by the Executive Head of Governance & Housing.
Any restrictions imposed under the above procedures will be kept under review (at least every 6 months) and be removed if the need for them no longer exists.
For those who are repeatedly deemed to be a 'persistent or unreasonable complainant' over a long period of time, the review period will be every 9 months.
How to make a complaint or give us feedback
Get in touch as soon as you can.
Your first step should be to speak to the manager of the service involved and explain what the problem is.
If you do not know who the manager is, all employees will do their best to put you in touch with the right person.
Managers will do all they can to resolve problems straight away. If this is not possible they will let you know.
We aim to send a reply within 15 working days unless you are otherwise informed.
You can call into any council building such as our information offices, health and leisure centres or visitor information centres where you can either verbally leave your complaint or collect one of our complaints forms.
You may also ask someone to act on your behalf.
This could be a friend or family, an agent, solicitor or even your local Councillor or MP.
Complaint handling code self-assessment
We have recently carried out a self-assessment against the Housing Ombudsman's Code of Conduct.
The results of the assessment, and follow up actions, can be found in the form below: