What is a complaint?
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with a decision, level or quality of service, or behaviour of an employee which can be investigated and acted upon where no right of appeal or review is available under any other legislation.
Some legislation (Act, Regulation, Rule by By-Law) specifically makes provision for an appeal, or an internal or external review of a decision.
What is not a complaint?
- A request for service (unless there was no response to a first request for service)
- A request for information or an explanation of a policy or procedure.
- Disagreement with a policy of the Council.
- An appeal or request for internal or external review of a decision for which a structured process applies, other than that made as the result of a complaint.
- An expression concerning the general direction and performance of Council or its Councillors.
- An expression of dissatisfaction with the behaviour of a Councillor.
- Reports of damaged or faulty infrastructure.
- Reports about neighbours, noise, dogs, nuisances, unauthorised building work or similar issues that fall into the regulatory aspect of our service.
Many of the issues above are called ‘complaints’ when a customer contacts us. They are called complaints because a customer is unhappy about a situation and wants something done. The actions we take to resolve many ‘complaints’ are an everyday part of organisational life for us due to the nature of services we provide and will be dealt with as part of our normal approach to customer service, not as part of our complaints management process.
Complaints Management Process
- If you have a complaint we recommend that you raise it with the employee that you have been dealing with in the first instance. If they or their supervisor are unable to resolve it promptly for you and you remain dissatisfied, then we encourage you to formally escalate it in accordance with this procedure.
- The Manager of each Department of Council is responsible for handling escalated complaints relevant to that Department in the first instance.
- While most problems can usually be resolved at an early stage, there are times when they require detailed investigation.
- If a complaint is of a very serious nature, it will be referred to the relevant Director or in extreme cases, to the Chief Executive Officer.
- Irrespective of the manner in which the complaint was received a response to the complaint can be expected within ten (10) working days.
- If an Ombudsman has submitted a complaint on a customer’s behalf, we will also try to respond to the Ombudsman within ten (10) working days.
- There are times when it is not possible to meet this deadline e.g. where a complaint is a complex one or the Ombudsman needs to be briefed on the outcome of the investigations.
- In cases where we are unable to respond within these timelines, we will endeavour to keep the customer informed of progress and the reasons for the delay.
Form of complaint
- A complaint may be lodged in person, by phone, letter or email, and responded to in the same format or by meeting with the Manager of the relevant Department to discuss the complaint.
- The Director, Corporate Services is Council’s Internal Ombudsman and is responsible for overseeing the management of complaints from the public concerning Council’s affairs.
- In some circumstances, complaints may also be directed to Directors, or to the Chief Executive Officer.
- Any Councillor in receipt of a complaint should refer the matter directly to the Chief Executive Officer or the Director, Corporate Services.
- If the complaint relates to a complex matter or there is no resolution from discussing the matter with staff or the relevant Manager, a complaint should be made in writing setting out the complaint as simply as possible.
- To assist Council in dealing with your complaint you should include the following, if relevant:
a) date, time and location of events
b) nature and description of complaint
c) the name, position in council (if known) and the dates of whom you have spoken to
d) copies of references to letters or documents relevant to your complaint
e) a statement of what you hopes to achieve as an outcome or resolution to your complaint
Internal review and escalation
- Experience has shown that the majority of complaints will be satisfactorily resolved by the relevant Manager.
- However, if you remain dissatisfied with the outcome you may request a review of the complaint by Council’s Director, Corporate Services.
- A request for a review of the complaint to the Director, Corporate Services is to be in writing.
- The Director, Corporate Services will inform the customer of the findings on completion of an investigation.
Consideration of a complaint
In considering a complaint the relevant Manager or the Director, Corporate Services will:
- examine and analyse the information already available and follow up points requiring clarification
- look at the Council Policies which might have a bearing on the complaint
- consider whether or not the Council is at fault
- consider any necessary action to be taken to correct the faults identified
- consider a review of the Council’s procedures, to avoid recurrence of any similar complaint in the future if necessary
- The relevant Manager or the Director, Corporate Services may enter into informal discussions or mediation on a complaint with a view to resolution.
- All complaints received by Council will be treated with the utmost seriousness, however if a complaint is found to be malicious, frivolous or vexatious, no further action will be taken on the complaint.
- The customer will be informed of this decision in writing by the relevant manager, following consultation with the Director, Corporate Services, in their role as Internal Ombudsman.
While we will receive anonymous complaints, we will generally only act on them where the matter is considered to be serious and there is sufficient information in the complaint to enable an investigation to be undertaken. Leaving your contact details enables us to follow up with you if we require further clarification and advise you of the outcome of the investigation once completed.
Complaints alleging misconduct, corrupt conduct or improper behaviour
- Complaints alleging serious misconduct, including corrupt conduct are to be directed immediately to the Chief Executive Officer, even where such a complaint is made verbally or anonymously. Complaints of this nature can also be made through Council’s Protected Disclosure Procedures details of which can be found on our Protected Disclosure page.
- Complaints alleging improper behaviour are to be directed immediately to the Manager of the Department, even where such a complaint is made verbally or anonymously. If the complaint is about a Manager, the complaint should be escalated to the relevant Director or Director Corporate Services in the first instance.
Complaints/reports regarding child protection within Council services
- All such complaints are to be referred immediately to the Director, Sustainable Communities.
Conflict of interest OR improper use of positions
- All such complaints are to be referred immediately to the Director, Corporate Services.
Competitive neutrality complaints
- Mitchell Shire Council supports the principles of competitive neutrality by ensuring that Council business operates without any net competitive advantages over other businesses as a result of its public ownership.
- We will receive and deal with any complaints in relation to these issues.
- All such complaints are to be referred to the Director, Corporate Services.
Protection of customer
- We will take care to ensure that the reporting of complaints will not result in you experiencing any form of victimisation or unfair treatment as a result of your complaint.
- We are committed to the protection of your personal information in accordance with the requirements of the Personal Information Protection Act 2004 and the Freedom of Information Act 1991.
What if you are not satisfied with the resolution of the complaint?
We are confident that we can resolve the majority of complaints received, however we understand that we may not be able to satisfy every customer on every occasion. Sometimes Councils have to make difficult and complex decisions involving many people and individual customers do not get the outcome they want.
If a complaint remains unresolved or you are dissatisfied with our process in dealing with a complaint other avenues remain for the customer to explore which include:
- alternative dispute resolution procedure, such as mediation or conciliation
- referral to the Ombudsman of Victoria. The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament who investigates complaints about state government departments, most statutory authorities and local government. The Ombudsman is located at Level 9, 459 Collins Street (North Tower) Melbourne, 3000. Ph (03) 9613 6222.
- Appeal procedures or other legal remedy as provided for in legislation relevant to the issue at hand (eg. discrimination complaints can be referred to the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission)
Please note that while you are entitled to refer a complaint directly to these Bodies at any time, you are encouraged to allow us to investigate your complaint first to see whether resolution can be reached.