EXECUTIVE MEMBER BRIEFING PAPER
TITLE OF BRIEFING PAPER MONITORING REPORT FOR COMPLAINTS &
COMPLIMENTS JANUARY – JUNE 2004
To brief the Executive Member for Citizens & Consumer Rights on the
complaints and compliments dealt with by the Council for the period
January – June 2004.
That the paper be noted and comments welcomed on the format of
further reports which will be produced quarterly.
3. KEY ISSUES
Contained within the body of the report.
This report outlines the monitoring of complaints & compliments for
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council during the period January – June
The information contained within the report is provided by the Departmental
The ability to provide detailed analysis of complaints is still limited due to the
variety of ways in which information is logged and the variety of systems
available in each department. With the arrival of the Customer Relations
Management System as part of Bdirect this will allow complaints to be logged
and monitored in a standard format via the use of IT.
In addition, this report does not capture the informal contact that citizens have
with the borough on a daily basis where concerns are resolved at point of
contact. Within each department this information is captured and analysed
The Vital Statistics
Between January – June 2004 Blackburn with Darwen received a total of 251
complaints, which were dealt with under Stage 1 of the Council’s corporate
procedure and the separate legislative procedure that exists within Social
An important consideration in analysing the figures presented is that there is
currently no record maintained indicating how many of the complaints were
upheld, partially upheld or unfounded. This again, is an improvement, which is
planned as part of the development for capturing the information and will
provide a greater understanding of the areas, which require service
Future reports will also incorporate all enquiries received from MPs. As the
nature of the content is often closely linked to that for complaints, it is sensible
to include them within one report to help develop a better overall picture.
The graph overleaf shows a breakdown of the number of complaints received
by each department for the period
R D Fi
io oc e
Complaints Received by Department January - June 2004
Rights, Advice & Entitlements received 26% of all complaints logged during the
These can be broken down into the following categories:-
Housing Benefit & Council Tax Benefit Issues 60
Frontline Service Issues 3
Consumer Advice 1
The Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit complaints can be broken down further
into the following categories:-
RAE - Benefit Related Complaints
In response to the complaints received the most common response was an explanation
of the processes involved in administering the benefits service. In addition the required
information had often not been received from applicants to allow the claim to be
processed and this had resulted in delays in the processing of the claim.
All the complaints received with RAE were acknowledged within the 3 day timescale.
However, 10 of the complaints went beyond the 3 week timescale for full response. This
has been due to the complex nature of the issue but complainants have been contacted
by telephone to inform of delays and kept up to date with progress.
Social Services also received a high percentage of complaints totalling 28% of the
overall number received.
A breakdown of the complaints received from Social Services is outlined below:-
Social Services Related Complaints
Actions of 3rd Party
The procedure for dealing with Social Services complaints differs from the corporate
procedure due to the requirement to adhere to the legislative guidelines.
Due to the nature of the services delivered in this department and the open culture that
exists a relatively high number of complaints are received and logged compared to a
number of other departments.. During this period the complaints included breaches of
confidentiality, Data Access, the Fairer Charging system and Care Planning
agreements. Again, a common response to many complaints received was an
explanation of the Authorities actions. However, in response to some of the complaints
received and subsequent investigations, recommendations have been implemented to
improve some services. This has included the introduction of working care plans for
each individual service user coupled with a training programme to enable appropriate
staff to deliver them. In addition improved systems of working have been introduced
relating to records for supervised contact with children.
Lessons learned from complaints are shared amongst Social Services staff via the
“Getting it Right” guide which is part of the regular departmental newsletter. In addition
an Annual Report is produced within Social Services that reports complaints and other
feedback received in the department.
Direct Services received 18% of formal complaints. These are categorised below and
include correspondence received from MP’s on behalf of constituents:-
Direct Services Complaints
Recycling Drainage Litter Refuse Street Grounds General Poor Crematorium Building
(including fly (including Cleansing Maintenance Service Services
tipping, bins &
public land additonal
Again, common responses focussed on an explanation of the Council’s actions and
current policies for dealing with issues raised. Concerns were resolved via a varied
approach of letters, telephone discussions and face-to-face meetings with complainants.
The majority of complaints were dealt with within the 3 week timescale for dealing with
Stage 1 complaints.
Finance received 16% of overall complaints the majority of which related to the
administration of Council Tax. Categories of complaints are set out below and include
MP correspondence on behalf of constituents.
A few of the complaints received regarding reminders, arrears and summonses being
issued are related to benefit issues. In addition suggestions for improved service from
the Call Centre have been raised by the Director of Finance with Capita Revenues &
Benefits. Since this time fewer complaints have been received relating to the service
provided by the call centre. Another proposed improvement to service relates to the
inclusion of touchtone technology as part of the bdirect implementation following a
complaint received over the lack of security when paying by credit card over the
Council Tax related Finance Complaints
Administration Summons Arrears Reminders Bailiff Action Payments Call Centre
& delays in
All complaints received in the Finance department are dealt with swiftly and are mostly
resolved within 1-2 days.
Other Service areas
As detailed in the first graph, other departments within the Council have received a
relatively low number of complaints and therefore further detailed analysis is not deemed
necessary. Timescales for responses and logging of complaints are consistent with
those provided by other departments and no real issues for concern have been raised.
A number of nil returns have been received from various departments some of which
would be expected to have low numbers due to the nature of the service delivered, (e.g.
Policy, PR & Communications). Low returns for Education and Lifelong learning should
also be noted as all complaints relating to schools are dealt with by the schools
themselves and do not fall within the remit of the Councils Corporate Complaints
Further work is taking place with complaints co-ordinators to ensure customer
dissatisfaction is being captured and dealt with in an appropriate way. There has clearly
been a lot of variation in how service areas deal with complaints and the interpretation of
what constitutes a complaint.
Further work also needs to be carried out to look at how each department can capture
informal complaints that are made to ensure that any service deficit issues are not
Contact from Complainants
As the Council’s services move towards more direct resolution of issues it is also useful
to note the method that most complainants use to contact the Council. In it’s procedure
the Council encourages complaints to be made via the method most suitable for the
The following sets out how most complaints were lodged with the Council:-
Complaints Returns January - June 2004
Method of Contact
Complaint Form Letter Telephone E-mail Internal Referral Councillor MP Face to Face LET
Method of Contact
It should be noted that not all complaints received have had the method of receipt
recorded. Complaints Co-ordinators are being encouraged to log this in all cases to
assist in targeting publicity and resources to those areas that are most popular with
complainants. However, the Council should view the variety of methods that
complainants have used to resolve concerns positively as it demonstrates that service
areas are responsive to many methods of contact.
Stage 2 Complaints
Between January – June the Council received 10 requests for Complaints to be
reviewed and progressed to Stage 2.
Of these 9 requests 3 related to Benefit issues and it was agreed that an Independent
Director for 2 of the cases would carry out a further review as the policy allows. To date
there has been no further contact from the complainants and it is assumed that their
complaints have now been resolved.
No further contact has been received from another complainant who wished their
complaint to progress– again relating to the way their benefit issue had been dealt with.
Attempts were made to set up a Stage 2 hearing in February and March but despite
attempts to make contact the complainant has not been back in touch with the Council.
Between May – June, 6 requests have been received from complainants wishing to
proceed to Stage 2. Unfortunately, partly due to the election process all these Stage 2
hearings have yet to be arranged. From the complainants point of view this is far from
ideal and a separate report suggesting changes to the current policy attempts to deal
with this issue.
All the current requests for Stage 2 hearings relate to Planning issues within the
Regeneration, Housing & Neighbourhoods Department. A summary of the outcomes of
these hearings will be included in the next monitoring report.
Local Government Ombudsman Issues
Between January – June 2004 the Council received 10 complaints forwarded from the
Local Government Ombudsman. Of those the following table gives a breakdown of the
Department Issue Outcome
Education & Lifelong School Transport Policy Investigation completed
Learning - no maladministration
Social Services Council failed to Investigation completed
respond to complaint – no maladministration
over access to files. found.
Capita Property Delay in completing Investigation ongoing –
Consultancy drainage repairs – lead no determination yet
Education & Lifelong Tendering process Out of jurisdiction – no
Finance LCC failed to pay Out of jurisdiction – no
money to BwDBC investigation
Rights, Advice & Blue Badge Award Investigation completed
Entitlements – no maladministration
Regeneration, Housing Planning Permission Not pursuing. No
& Neighbourhoods refusal & Tree response to initial letter
Preservation Orders which offered alternative
Regeneration, Housing Planning Issue Investigation ongoing –
& Neighbourhoods no determination yet.
Regeneration, Housing Planning Issue Premature complaint –
& Neighbourhoods to be put through
Regeneration, Housing& Planning Issues & Premature complaint –
Neighbourhoods & Changes to road system to be put through
Capita Property Council’s own
The results of the recent household survey conducted borough wide showed that only
22% of citizens were satisfied with the way in which their complaint was handled.
Concerns over the sampling used for this indicator have been raised elsewhere.
However, the figure demonstrates that there is some way to go in dealing effectively with
complaints made against the Council. It is intended that the Council can now begin to
carry out it’s own satisfaction surveys in order to gauge more accurately the views of
those complainants that have direct experience of the council’s complaints procedure.
The development of this approach needs to be linked into an improved monitoring
system to allow the information to be easily captured.
A revised customer satisfaction survey has been developed to ensure that we are able
to measure people’s satisfaction with how their complaint has been handled. This also
means that we can trend information based on issues such as age and ethnicity as well
as by department. It is necessary to measure this information to ensure the overall value
and effectiveness of the existing system. It is also important to ensure that information
can be captured for the Local indicator that is to be developed to provide a regular
update of complaints handling.
Equally as useful in developing services is recognising when the Council has done
something well. This allows good service to be recognised and acknowledged and
where appropriate good practice to be shared across the organisation. At the moment
compliments often remain within departments and are not shared more widely. While it
is not proposed to detail every compliment received it is important that examples of good
service can be used both to recognise individuals and also to balance perhaps more
The following Departments have provided a return for January – June 2004 based on
Department Number of Compliments
Social Services 60
Culture, Leisure & Sport 4
Education & Lifelong Learning 4
Direct Services 2
Rights, Advice & Entitlements 19
Other service areas are being encouraged to log compliments and include in monthly
returns. At the present time many compliments remain within departments and are
passed on to the employee concerned but not shared beyond this.
5. POLICY IMPLICATIONS
The logging of complaints and compliments is carried out in
accordance with the Council’s approved policy for Suggestions,
Comments and Complaints and also the Comments, Complaints &
Compliments policy within Social Services.
6. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
7. LEGAL IMPLICATIONS
8. RESOURCE IMPLICATIONS
CONTACT OFFICER: Sally Butterworth
DATE: 13th July, 2004
BACKGROUND PAPER: Procedure for Suggestions, Comments and Complaints