4. Stage two complaints: reasons for escalation
The corporate complaints team review requests to escalate to stage two of the complaint process, considering whether the original complaint has been fully responded to at stage one, why the customer remains unhappy with the response, and what more the council can do. If the complaints team consider there is insufficient justification to escalate the complaint, they will let the customer know the council has reached its final decision and provide details for the appropriate Ombudsman.
In this period 17% of stage one complaints were escalated to stage two. Most complaints were escalated due to the complainant disputing information provided within the stage one response.
Training is being provided for managers investigating complaints as part of on-going work to improve the robustness of our stage one complaint responses, so our customers receive a comprehensive response to their concerns earlier in the process and fewer complaints need to be escalated to stage two of the process.
5. Learning from complaints
As a result of complaints, the council takes a variety of actions to make improvements, including making changes to its policies or processes, and carrying out training or staff development.
In the reporting period, because of complaints:
- Policies and processes were reviewed in Childrens, Families and Education and Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services
- Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services reminded staff of the correct processes to follow
- Children, Families and Education and Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services identified the need for staff training
6. Complaint subject trends: 1st January – 31st March 2023
Complaints are categorised by subject
During this period, 26 complaints (20%) were related to the timeliness of the council’s responses to its customers with a further 17 complaints (13%) relating to the service provided by a member of council staff. Recognising the issues being highlighted by complaints, all directorates are working to improve customer service throughout the council, by working together to create more consistency in our approaches.
During the reporting period, the council received 24 complaints about housing repairs, with nine linked to mould and damp and nine regarding either the timeliness of repairs or repairs not being carried out as advised. This increase coincided with a Government campaign encouraging social housing tenants to complaint about issues relating to their properties, as well as national publicity around health concerns linked to damp and mould. The council is currently reviewing its processes in relation to managing damp and mould
Reports around complaint subject trends are made available to directorates so issues highlighted through complaints can be addressed at service level.
7. Compliment and suggestion trends
25 compliments and 18 suggestions were received within the reporting period.
Of the 25 compliments, all were for service received from individual members of staff or teams from across the council. The most compliments were received by Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services receiving 13 and Finance, Revenues and Benefits receiving six..
Suggestions included comments on introducing parking permits, suggesting amendments to online forms, and suggestions around services offered for rubbish and recycling.
Compliments and suggestions are provided to directorates to ensure positive feedback is passed on to the relevant staff/teams and ensure customer feedback through suggestions can be reviewed and acted on where appropriate.
Corporate complaints data: 2021/22
An annual report on corporate complaints, including Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman complaints, is provided to Governance and Standards and Audit Committee
Appendix A provides a summary of corporate complaints data, taken from the annual complaints report, from the previous financial year, as a comparator.
In 2021/22, the council managed 686 stage one, stage two and stage three complaints through the previous corporate complaints process. There were 553 stage one complaints, of which 380 were managed under the former three stage complaint process with 68% managed within the 10-working day timescale for response. The remaining 173 stage one complaints were managed under the new two-stage complaint process with 83% managed in line with the 15-working day timescale for response set out in the new policy introduced from 1st December 2021.
In 2021/22, 120 complaints were taken to stage two of the process. Of the 120 complaints, 73 were managed under the former three-stage complaint process with 70% managed in line with the 15-working day timescale for response. The remaining 47 complaints were managed under the new two-stage complaint process with 81% managed in line with the 20-working day timescale for response.
In 2021/22, 13 complaints were taken to stage three of the process compared with 24 complaints taken to stage three the previous year. The percentage of stage three complaints managed within the 20-working day timescale set out in the old policy was 71%, compared with 42% in 2020/21.
Work is on-going to increase the number of complaints that are managed within the timescales, and to improve the service we provide to our customers.
The complaints process also allows customers to provide positive feedback and 66 compliments were received in 2021/22.