1. Purpose

The purpose of this report is to provide a quarterly update on corporate complaints for the chief executive, monitoring officer and Section 151 officer, in line with the council’s corporate complaints policy.

The quarterly corporate complaints report is designed to support the organisation in learning from complaints. The report will be published on the council website, improving transparency around complaints for residents and other stakeholders.

2. Introduction

Portsmouth City Council is committed to providing an excellent service for our customers, but we know we don’t always get it right and we recognise our customers have a right to complain when they feel we have fallen short. As well as giving the council the chance to put things right, complaints give us valuable feedback on our services that help us to improve.

The council’s corporate complaints policy sets out a two-stage escalation process for corporate complaints, including timescales the council aims to adhere to when responding to complaints.

This report provides data around corporate complaints. Complaints relating to Adult Social Care and Children’s Social Care are managed in line with separate policies and are outside the scope of this report, with annual reports on social care complaints shared with Cabinet members and with the Health Overview & Scrutiny panel.

3. Complaints by stages, by directorate

The following table provides a breakdown of the number of stage one and stage two complaints, the percentage of complaints that were managed within the timescales included in the corporate complaints policy received by directorate.

Directoratestage onestage twototal% within timescales
Children, Families and Education31475%
Corporate Services921182%
Culture, Leisure and Regulatory Services52771%
Finance, Revenues and Benefits1021283%
Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services67148180%
Public Health000N/A
Chief Executive's office000N/A

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 21% of stage one complaints were escalated to stage two. Most complaints were escalated either because not all points of the complaint were addressed comprehensively in the stage one response, or because new evidence was made available at stage two of the complaints process.

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 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:

  • Staff training and development was carried out by Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services.
  • Policies or processes were reviewed in Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services, Corporate Services & Regeneration
  • Work was done to remind staff about the correct process to follow in five directorates: Children, Families and Education, Culture, Leisure and Regulatory Services, Regeneration, Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services and Finance and Resources work was done to remind staff of correct processes.

6. Complaint subject trends: 1 October – 31 December 2022

Complaints are categorised by subject. The following table provides a breakdown of the higher subject complaints received during the quarter by subject category.

SubjectNumber of complaints
Timeliness / lack of response48
Policies and Procedures34
Maintenance issues25
Issues relating to council staff22
Issues not resolved by the service and referred to complaints14
Remedy / Action not carried out as agreed11

During this period, the highest number of complaints were related to timeliness of the council’s responses to its customers. Half of these complaints related to services provided by Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services, the council’s largest directorate, with six relating to issues with responses from housing needs, advice and support (HNAS). There were also a significant number of complaints relating to council’s policies and procedures to its customers although no specific trends have been identified.
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

Fifteen compliments and 13 suggestions were received within the reporting period.
All 15 compliments were for individual staff members or teams regarding the level of service they provided. The suggestions related to a variety of areas, including suggestions surrounding parking permits and parking charges, beach hut hire and baby changing facilities. One anonymous complaint was also recorded as a suggestion as per our corporate complaint policy.

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.

Appendix A
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 1 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.

Complaints by stages, by directorate 2021/22

DirectorateStage oneStage twoStage three2021/22 total
Children, Families and Education1610329
Corporate Services153119
Culture, Leisure and Regulatory Services417048
Finance, Revenues and Benefits332136
Housing, Neighbourhoods and Building Services363776446
Public Health0000

Complaint trends
The increase in the number of stage one and stage two complaints can be partially explained by the 139 complaints received about rubbish and recycling collections, which followed changes to collection rounds. The issues relating to rubbish and recycling collections have now been resolved.

There were also 141 complaints linked to the timeliness of the council’s responses to customers in 2021/22, compared with 43 complaints categorised in this way in 2020/21. The increase can be partially attributed to known issues, including a backlog of planning applications that developed during the pandemic that the council has already taken steps to address, as well as increased demand for some services in the wake of the pandemic, for example housing needs, advice and support.