The Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance presented an update on the new complaints procedure, including a draft new feedback policy along with a flowchart, based on previous comments from Members. It was aligned to the housing feedback policy and considered a two-step process rather than the current three-step process.
There were still many ways to make contact with staff to make a complaint, including telephone, online, face to face and email. A new complaints software package could ensure any officer could input a complaint that was relevant to their department and ensure the Council’s obligations were met through extensive training.
During discussion, Members raised the following points:
Concerns were raised that a complaint could not be raised by someone who was not directly impacted by the situation. Comments were added that a complainant who may not have full capacity may require a representative to assist. It was agreed that this element would be removed from the scheme.
Concern was noted that a three month expiry on submitting a complaint may not be long enough and an example was given of an unresolved complaint raised a year ago with no satisfactory resolution having yet been reached.
It was reported that reference to three months was the time enabling a complaint to be raised, not dealt with and that an unresolved ongoing situation could be escalated as appropriate.
Concerns were raised by a Member about how to deal with vexatious complaints, considering staff welfare and potential threats from the public. It was noted that staff needed to be protected. Although the need for anonymous complaints were acknowledged, concern was raised about dealing with a deliberate intention to cause problems.
It was agreed that all staff deserved to be looked after and a policy would be introduced to consider this. Officers needed to be empowered to conduct their work and it was noted that anonymous complaints hindered dialogue.
A Member asked what was within the scope of the complaints procedure, for example, complaints against Councillors and complaints in relation to the Council’s companies such as LeisureSK Ltd.
It was informed that Member conduct was not within the scope of this process and came under the responsibility of the Council’s Monitoring Officer. Housing complaints were dealt with as a separate process. All Council companies were monitored as the Council was legally responsible for delivering the services, sometimes as a shareholder through a service level agreement.
A Member stated that unreasonable complaints should be overseen politically and should not be left solely to an officer.
It was agreed that some complaints were too significant for an individual officer to resolve.
A Member asked that contractors be included within the process, with a review of out of hours complaints in particular to be added.
It was AGREED that:
a) The Committee noted the update regarding a new customer feedback process and software system.
b) The Committee endorsed the new draft customer feedback policy and provided comments prior to recommending to Cabinet that the new process is adopted
c) The Committee delegated to the Deputy Chief Executive in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance to continue exploring costs for a new software system for complaints and provide regular updates on progress to the Committee.