FORMAL COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

Document Sample
FORMAL COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE Powered By Docstoc
					                       FORMAL COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

            Report of the Democratic and Legal Services Manager to the
                Standards Committee on the 16th September 2004


1.    PURPOSE OF REPORT

1.1   At its meeting on 30th May 2002 (Minute No. 26/02) the Standards
      Committee agreed to receive six monthly reports detailing complaints dealt
      with under the Council’s Complaints Procedure.

1.2   This report summarises those complaints that were dealt with during the
      period 1st January 2004 to the 30th June 2004.

2.    BACKGROUND

2.1   The Council formulated its Complaints Procedure as a means of allowing
      its customers a uniform approach to express their dissatisfaction with the
      way that the Council has, or has not, acted in relation to matters under its
      jurisdiction.

2.2   One of the national performance indicators for local authorities is a
      requirement to answer the following questions, set by the Audit
      Commission, to identify whether the Council’s complaint procedures
      comply with current good practice, namely:

      (i)      Does the Authority have a Complaints Policy which covers current
               good practice?
      (ii)     Is there a follow-up procedure if the complainant is not satisfied with
               a response from the department to which the complaint relates?
      (iii)    Does the Authority have a written policy on remedies?
      (iv)     Is there a system for reviewing the causes of complaints to ensure
               that avoidable problems do not recur?
      (v)      Does the Authority publish a report on complaints, which is available
               to members of the public?

Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council has been able to give a positive
response in respect of all five questions.
3.     CURRENT POSITION

3.1    The vast majority of the complaints received by the Council are resolved
       following an initial approach to the appropriate service provider. Those not
       so resolved, but pursued beyond the initial stage of investigation are
       formally recorded and monitored centrally in the Democratic and Legal
       Services Unit.

3.2    In many cases it is discovered that complainants simply misunderstand
       the Council’s powers and/or position in relation to certain matters. In
       those instances there is usually a speedy resolution of the complaint by
       issuing a full explanation of the position.

3.3    During the six-month period ending 30th June 2004 the number of
       complaints received were 13 compared with 9 in the previous six months.
       A breakdown of these complaints is listed under the appropriate service in
       the table below:


       Service                       Cases Received Cases Resolved
       Finance - Revenues                   3        2 (1 withdrawn)
       Public Amenities                     1                1
       Development Control                  5
       Leisure Services                     2                1
       Joint - Development Control /        1                1
       Environmental Health
       Parish Council Matter                1                1

       A brief summary of each case is attached to this report at Annex A.

3.4    The majority of complaints received under the Council’s formal complaints
       procedure were resolved by sending letters of explanation and/or an
       apology to the complainants and where necessary, setting procedures in
       place to prevent further recurrences.

4.     IMPLICATIONS

4.1     Staffing
      (i) Staff devote a considerable amount of time in dealing with formal
           complaints, both in terms of the scheme’s general administration and
           also investigation of individual cases.
      (ii) If a complainant remains dissatisfied once the appropriate service
            provider has investigated his/her case, he/she can request an
            independent investigation by a senior officer not previously involved in
            the matter. The Democratic and Legal Services Manager or a member
            of his team normally undertakes such investigations. Exceptionally,
            however, during busy periods senior officers outside the Chief
            Executive’s Department are also enlisted to undertake independent
            investigations.
      (iii) Complaints are generally dealt with by exchange of correspondence,
            but can also involve telephone conversations, site visits and meetings
            at the complainant’s home or at the Council’s offices. These meetings
            etc obviously have an impact on staff time, but as they often result in
            the successful resolution of complaints they are considered entirely
            worthwhile.

4.2    Financial
       In terms of compensation/recompense, an amount £200 was offered in
       respect of Case 0304-14.

5.     CONCLUSION

5.1    There have been very few requests (one) for independent investigations
       during the period. This is mainly as a result of the additional time and
       effort devoted to resolving complaints at the initial stage. One of the main
       lessons to be learnt from dealing with complaints is the need for the
       Council to communicate its decisions and actions clearly and effectively.

6.     RECOMMENDATIONS

6.1    That the report detailing complaints dealt with under the Council’s
       complaints procedure during the period 1st January 2004 to 30th June 2004
       be noted and that similar reports be submitted to the Standards Committee
       at six monthly intervals.

                                 Gareth Owens
                     Democratic and Legal Services Manager

Guildhall
Shrewsbury
Leisure Services
Ref:      Details of Complaint:       Summary of Action Taken:                  Service Manager Comments:
0304-21 Complaint against a           Investigation by the Director of          None.
(See also supplier of sports          Community Services. Complainant
0405-04 equipment taking              requested to provide further details of
below)    unauthorised                the publication the promoted material
          photographs of children     was displayed. The complainant
          using equipment at a        submitted a further complaint detailed
          multisports court for       below.
          publicity purposes.

0405-04     Further complaint         The Council’s Acting Monitoring           None.
(See also   regarding a private       Officer and Director of Community
0304-21     company taking            Services concluded that the Council
above)      unauthorised              had not sanctioned the taking of the
            photographs of children   photographs and suggested that the
            using multisports court   issue should be raised directly with
            for publicity purposes.   the company.


Development Control
Ref:    Details of Complaint:         Summary of Action Taken:                  Service Manager Comments:
0304-14 Barn conversion               Letter of apology sent for the delay      None
        adjacent to Garden            providing a full response to the
        Cottage, Withington and       enquiries. A full explanation was
        allegation of loss of         given regarding the planning
        privacy due to the            application for the barn conversion
        installation of rooflights.   and the installation of the rooflights.
                                      Confirmation provided that the
          Complaint referred from   applicant was not in breach of
          the Local Government      planning conditions. In view of the
          Ombudsman                 unnecessary trouble and expense in
                                    writing letters to seek clarification, an
                                    ex gracia payment of £200 was
                                    offered.

                                    A copy of the Council’s response sent
                                    to the Ombudsman.

0304-20   The granting of consent   Investigations confirmed that the       None.
          for a Certificate of      Scheme of Delegation to Officers
          Lawfulness for            delegates to Planning Assistants in
          mezzanine floors in a     consultation with Senior Solicitor the
          retail park which would   determination of Certificates of Lawful
          double the retail floor   Use. The Council’s legal advice
          space.                    supported by the Development
                                    Control Manager was that the
          Complaint referred from   application be approved. Monitoring
          the Local Government      Officer determined that the Planning
          Ombudsman.                and Legal Officer acted appropriately
                                    within the powers granted by the
                                    Council under the scheme of
                                    delegation in granting consent for a
                                    Certificate of Lawfulness.

                                    A copy of the Council’s response sent
                                    to the Ombudsman.
0405-01   Complaint against vote      The Monitoring Officer examined the   None.
          on application at           meeting notes and listened to the
          Development Control &       taped recording of the meeting and
          Environmental               determined that the correct
          Protection Committee        procedures were followed and was
                                      satisfied with the legality of the
                                      decision taken.

0405-02   Complaint against a         The Monitoring Officer examined the   None.
          vote on an application at   meeting notes and listened to the
          Development Control &       taped recording of the meeting and
          Environmental               determined that the correct
          Protection Committee        procedures were followed and was
                                      satisfied with the legality of the
                                      decision taken.

0405-03   Failure to consult the      Investigations concluded that the      None.
          Highways Department         correspondence provided by the
          over a planning             Council’s Director of Development
          application                 Services had covered the complaint in
                                      full and could not provide any further
                                      information on the matter.
Finance - Revenues
Ref:     Details of Complaint:       Summary of Action Taken:                   Service Manager Comments:
0304-16 Complaint regarding the      Full investigation undertaken and          None.
         way his outstanding         review of the case. Letter of
         business rates were         explanation sent confirming the
         dealt with. Complainant     instruction of bailiffs was justified in
         also unhappy with the       view of the outstanding balance due
         actions of the bailiffs     to the council.
         and manner in which he
         was treated.                The Complainant was offered a
                                     meeting with officers but did not take
                                     up the meeting.
03-04-18 Complaint against           Letter of explanation sent together   None
         reduction of council tax    with a copy of the standard format
         on second homes             correspondence to second home
                                     owners. No further action required as
                                     confirmation that the proper
                                     procedure had been adhered with.

0405-05   Complaint form received    The Monitoring Officer requested       None.
          indicating that precise    details to be sent by return to enable
          details of the nature of   the case to be progressed. No further
          the complaint would be     details provided by complainant.
          brought in by letter.
Public Amenities
Ref:     Details of Complaint:       Summary of Action Taken:              Service Manager Comments:
0304-15 Concern over Coppicing       Complainant informed that the         None
         and Pollarding of willow    daffodils were not affected by
         and other trees around      aboricultural work although some
         Springfield Mere            short term damage occurred as a
         resulting in damage to      result of tree limb work. Essential
         daffodils, disturbance to   maintenance was undertaken taking
         wildlife and should have    account of English Nature’s
         been undertaken at a        recommendation to undertake work
         different time of year.     within a stipulated period.


Joint - Development Control / Environmental Health
Ref:      Details of Complaint:  Summary of Action Taken:                  Service Manager Comments:
0304-22 Complaint regarding      The Council’s Monitoring Officer          None.
          noise nuisance and     provided a full response to the
          planning development   complainant outlining the responses
          at Old Coleham.        based on the findings of the
                                 Development Control Service and
                                 Environmental Health Service.
                                 A further investigation was
                                 undertaken by the Assistant Chief
                                 Executive and Deputy Monitoring
                                 Officer who concluded that the
                                 Council has dealt with matters
                                 accordingly and in making their
                                 planning decision took all factors into
                                 account.
Parish Council Matter
Ref:     Details of Complaint:      Summary of Action Taken:                 Service Manager Comments:
0304-19 Complaint against the       Letter of explanation sent to the        None
         manner in which a          complainant advising him that no
         planning application had   breach of the Code of Conduct had
         been dealt with at a       taken place and that training had
         Parish Council Meeting     been undertaken with the Parish
         with an inference that     Council therefore no further action to
         Procedural Rules had       be taken.
         not been adhered to.

				
DOCUMENT INFO