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Complaints and compliments
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Making a complaint
If you wish to complain about a Council service please contact the department concerned in the first instance.
If, after dealing directly with a department, you still have a complaint about a Council service or feel that you have been unjustly treated, then you can let the Council know via our formal complaints procedure.
- If you are dissatisfied with something that the Council has done, let us know using the online complaints form.
- Say clearly what was wrong and tell us what you think we should do to put things right.
- Your complaint will be acknowledged within three working days. We will tell you who is to investigate, how to get in touch with them, and when you may expect our response to your complain.
- We will try to resolve your complaint within ten working days. If this is not possible, we will tell you when you might expect the Council’s formal answer. We will stay in touch with you until we have answered your complaint.
When we investigate we may find that the Council has acted properly. We shall explain the details.
If we have made a mistake or acted wrongly, we shall tell you. We will try to put matters right and we will work to ensure others do not have the same experience.
- Your complaint will be investigated in the first instance by the the department manager.
- If you remain dissatisfied you must let us know within three weeks of receiving a response and your complaint will be escalated to the Head of Service with responsibility for the department you are making a complaint against or the Council’s Monitoring Officer, for review and response.
- If you are not satisfied by the Council’s response, you may seek an independent review of your complaint by the Local Government Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will expect you to have complained first to the Council, to give us the chance to make a response. You should explain what has already happened and include copies of the Council’s responses with your complaint.
Persistent and unreasonable complaints
We will look to resolve quickly and efficiently all complaints made to us. However, we do also have a policy when dealing with what we believe to be persistent and unreasonable complaints.
Allerdale Borough Council's policy for dealing with unreasonable and persistent complaints
Allerdale Borough Council is committed to dealing with complaints in an open and transparent way that is fair and equal to everyone.
This policy has been formulated to deal with the very small number of complainants whose frequency of contact with the authority, insoluble and persistent complaints, or unacceptable behavior makes it necessary for special measures to be taken
On the whole, dealing with complaints is a simple process but there are a small number of complainants who because of the frequency, nature or tone of their contact with us, adversely affect our ability to do our job and provide a service to others. We will refer to these complainants as ‘unreasonably persistent’ or vexatious and apply this policy.
For the purposes of this policy, unreasonable or unreasonably persistent complainants are those who make complaints that:
- clearly do not have any serious purpose or value.
- are designed to cause disruption or annoyance.
- have the effect of harassing the Council or can easily be seen as obsessive or unreasonable.
Actions and behaviours of unreasonably persistent complaints
Complainants or anyone acting on their behalf may be deemed to be vexatious or persistent if one or more of the following applies:
- Refusing to specify the grounds of a complaint, despite help from the Council.
- Making what appear to be groundless complaints about the staff dealing with the complaint and looking to have them replaced.
- Taking an excessive ‘scattergun’ approach – complaining officially to the Council as well as raising the same complaint with other bodies such as MP, councillor, police, solicitors, Local Government Ombudsman.
- Changing the basis of the complaint as the investigation moves forward and/or denying earlier statements.
- Raising trivial information and expecting this to be taken into account or raising lots of detailed but unimportant questions and insisting they are answered.
- Electronically recording meetings and conversations without the prior knowledge and consent of the other people involved.
- Making excessive demands on staff while a complaint is being dealt with.
- Sending a high volume of letters, emails and/or phone calls.
- Registering repeat complaints after the complaint has been fully investigated and completed.
- Refusing to accept the final decision of a complaint.
- Refusing to accept a complaint is outside the remit of the complaint procedure.
- Persistently contact the Council through different routes about the same issue.
- Someone who is not looking to resolve a dispute but is looking to cause unnecessary difficulties or problems to the Council.
- Refusing to accept that matters aren’t within the Council’s power to investigate if the matter is the responsibility of another organisation.
If a complainant isn’t happy with the outcome of their complaint and wishes to challenge it, this is not necessarily grounds to label them as ‘unreasonably persistent’.
This policy will be used as a last resort once all measures have been taken to resolve issues under the Council’s complaints procedure. We will make sure we have communicated appropriately with the complainant and make sure no new information that will affect the decision has been put forward.
The complainant will receive one written warning confirming that if their actions/behaviour continues, it will result in the Council treating them as an ‘unreasonably persistent complainant’ and future contact may be restricted.
Managers looking to implement this policy must do so in conjunction with their line manager, and or Head of Service.
On occasions a complainant can go from being unreasonably persistent to offensive, abusive or threatening any of which will not be tolerated.
Complaints will be seen to be vexatious in any situation where violence has been used or threatened towards staff at any time. This will mean personal contact with the complainant will be stopped and they will only be allowed to contact the Council in writing. All such incidents will be logged and reported to the police.
Deciding to restrict complainant contact
According to the level and nature of the complainant’s contacts with us, the following actions may be taken:
- Requesting contact in a specific form (e.g. by letter only).
- Requesting contact be made with a named officer only.
- Setting the number of phone calls that will be accepted
- (e.g. one call a week).
- Refusing to deal with future correspondence on the same matter if a decision has already been reached.
The complainant will receive a copy of this policy with a covering letter explaining that the policy has been applied and how it will affect their contact with us.
The letter will outline the length of time for which the restrictions will be in place and how they can ask for the restricted status to be reviewed at the end of this period.
Appealing a decision to restrict contact
A complainant can appeal the decision to place them on the ‘unreasonably persistent complainant’ list within 15 days of being notified of our decision.
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