Complaints policy and procedure
We aim to give excellent service to all of our customers. If we do get something wrong, we want to try to put it right quickly and learn from our mistake to help improve services in the future.
We will deal with all complaints fairly, consistently and professionally, in line with our corporate customer charter.
Insurance claims are dealt with separately from complaints.
What is a complaint?
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction about anything we have done, or not done. It might be about:
- failure to deliver a service
- delay in providing a service
- unsatisfactory quality of a service
- the behaviours of a member of our staff
- failure of our staff in following Council policy
What is not a complaint?
There are certain subject areas that we would not consider as a complaint, these include:
- first time request for service (such as removal of fly-tipping, noise nuisance or housing repair)
- request for information or an explanation of council policy (such as why the council tax is set at a certain level)
- disagreement with a Council decision
There are some occasions when a complaint is not dealt with under this policy: for example, when there is a separate appeal or review procedure (this may be an internal Council procedure or external legal process through the courts). If this is the case, we will explain this when you first contact us and tell you what to do next.
How to make a complaint
You can make your complaint either in writing or verbally. Putting your complaint in writing can be a more effective way of making sure we understand the details and what you would like us to do to put matters right.
If you have the contact details for the service responsible for the matter you wish to complain about, please contact them directly for help.
Alternatively, you can:
- complete our online form
- email email@example.com
- phone us on 01483 505050
- write to us at:
Customer Service Centre
Guildford Borough Council
Surrey, GU2 4BB
- or visit us at the above address
We want customers to be able to communicate with us and access our services easily. It is important that you let us know if you prefer to communicate with us and access our information in a particular way. For example, if you need help making a complaint and English is not your first, or preferred, language, or you have a disability that makes communicating with us more difficult, please tell us and we will arrange for someone to help you.
If you require information in an alternative format please let us know and, where feasible, we will provide it. We are happy for someone else to contact us who will act on your behalf as long as you have given authorisation for them to do so.
Our complaints procedure
In many instances, your first point of contact with the Council will be with our Customer Service Centre. We train our Customer Service staff to try to resolve any complaints about Council services but if this is not possible, they will put you directly in touch with someone in the relevant service who can help.
However we receive your complaint, we will carry out a full review and investigate your concerns.
You can register a complaint with any of our services. We will appoint someone senior within the service involved to review your complaint. They will be your point of contact (unless advised otherwise) until the investigation is complete. They will keep you informed of the progress of your complaint or make you aware of the reasons for any delay.
We will acknowledge your complaint within three working days of receipt and then we will come back to you within 10 working days to provide a full answer or say when we will be able to give you a full reply, as well as giving you an update on the investigation.
If your complaint is about something of a personal nature and we need to refer it to a third party, we will seek your consent first before doing so.
Right to appeal
We hope that our review of your complaint will provide you with a fair and satisfactory response. If you have good reasons to believe that we did not investigate your complaint properly, you can request an appeal, asking us to carry out a further review. For example, you may believe that an important piece of information was missed out or misunderstood and feel this would change the outcome.
Your appeal request must be made within 28 days of receiving the outcome to your complaint review. It should be sent to our Customer Services Team, who will acknowledge your appeal within five working days. They will pull together all relevant facts and present it to the Chief Internal Auditor who will decide whether there are grounds for a further review. If your appeal request is unsuccessful, we will write to you to explain why.
If your request is accepted, we will appoint an independent member of our Corporate Management Team who has not previously been involved with your case to carry it out. This senior officer will aim to provide a full response within 20 working days. If the complaint is complex, it may take longer and we will advise you when you can expect to receive a response. The decision made by a member of our Corporate Management Team will be final.
You can contact our Complaints and Improvements Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Government Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman
There will be occasions where we will not be able to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. If this is the case, you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) or the Housing Ombudsman (HO) who will consider your complaint and investigate, if appropriate.
The LGO and HO will not normally consider any appeal until a complaint has been through the complaints procedure outlined here.
Council house tenants complaining about our landlord services can refer their complaint to a "designated person" who can look at it for you and try to help you resolve it.
A "designated person" can be:
- a local councillor
- a Member of Parliament (MP)
- a recognised Tenants' Panel
You do not have to refer your complaint to a designated person, but if you do not you will have to wait for at least eight weeks before the Housing Ombudsman can consider your case.
To contact the Local Government Ombudsman, call: 0300 061 0614.
Alternatively, write to:
The Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Please visit the Local Government Ombudsman website to complete the complaint form.
To contact the Housing Ombudsman Service, call: 0300 111 3000
Alternatively, write to:
The Housing Ombudsman Service
Please visit the Housing Ombudsman Service website to complete the complaint form.
How you can help us
We understand that it is frustrating when we do not meet your expectations. We will do everything we can to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. In return, we ask that you:
- treat our staff with respect
- do not use abusive language or behaviour when dealing with us
- comply with all reasonable requests made in an effort to resolve your concerns
How we manage unreasonable complaint behaviour
On the rare occasion when a customer makes a complaint in an unreasonable way: repeatedly, obsessively or aggressively, for example, we will write to them explaining what action we are taking to bring the matter to an end. This could include, but not be limited to, restricting the form of communication that a complainant can use, limiting contact to a named officer or managing the contact with the help of a named intermediary.
The decision to class a complainant as unreasonable will be made by the Council's Monitoring Officer or Corporate Management Team. They will write to the complainant to explain the reason for the decision. The Monitoring Officer will record the details in a register and review the decision after six months. The Monitoring Officer will write to the complainant to tell them if they have been removed from the register or if they will remain on it for a further six months, when a further review will be carried out.
All correspondence received by the Council is subject to the Freedom of Information and Environmental Information laws and, in certain circumstances, may need to be made public. We will, however, respect legitimate expectations for confidentiality and we will keep to the relevant privacy laws.
We will use the personal information you give us only to deal with your feedback and, where necessary, to put things right. In the case of complaints, we will give details to the people who need them in order to investigate and resolve the matter.
We will not give your personal details to any third party unless they have a need to know (for example, if a complaint relates to the actions of one of our contractors, or if the Local Government Ombudsman is investigating).
When dealing with complaints, we also protect the identity of other people who may be involved. So there may be times when we will not be able to give you personal information about other people (for example, witnesses to incidents or other people complaining).
From time to time, we may contact customers who have used our complaints procedure to ask for their feedback on the response they received. We will appreciate your co-operation with this process, as it will help us to improve the service we offer to you.