We aim to provide excellent service to all of our customers. If we get something wrong, we want to try to put it right quickly and learn from the mistake to help improve services in the future.
This policy sets out the different stages a complaint would go through, the timescales involved and who should be involved in handling and responding to the complaint.
- to deal with complaints impartially, objectively and professionally
- to resolve complaints without avoidable delay
- to obtain information about the public's perceptions about our services, to inform future policy and service planning
- to maintain records of complaints made so that regular reviews can be produced for internal monitoring and public accountability
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
- a delay in providing a service
- unsatisfactory quality of a service
- the behaviour of a member of our staff; and/or
- the failure of a member of our staff in following council policy
There are certain subject areas that we would not consider as a complaint, these include:
- a first time request for a service
- a request for information or an explanation of council policy or practice (such as why the council tax is set at a certain level)
- a disagreement with a council decision
There are also some occasions when it is not appropriate to deal with a complaint under this policy. For instance if your complaint relates to a statutory process such as planning permission, the issuing of a penalty charge notice etc., where there is an existing appeals process available, the complaint will not be dealt with under the council's complaints procedure. If this is the case, we will explain this when you first contact us and tell you what to do next.
If you have a complaint against a Councillor, or about how a council meeting was conducted, this should be directed to the council's monitoring officer for consideration, or please view the information concerning members conduct on our website.
How to make a complaint
Your complaint should be about something specific. Please let us know:
- what has gone wrong, giving us as much detail as possible because it helps us to understand the situation better
- how it has affected you; and
- what you would like us to do to put things right
We encourage complainants to make a complaint as soon as possible after the incident because it is easier to collate relevant information at the time and to avoid repeated incidents.
We want to make it easy for you to complain to us. Putting your complaint in writing is a more effective way of making sure we understand the details and what you would like us to do to put matters right. We encourage you to make use of the online make a complaint form as it is the fastest way to reach us.
There are, however, the following alternative methods:
- by phone on 01423 500600
- in writing to Customer Services, Harrogate Borough Council, PO Box 787, Harrogate HG1 9RW
Our complaints procedure
If you speak to us about your complaint, we will try to resolve it on the spot. We will confirm with you what the problem is and how you would like it to be resolved. We will try to solve the problem promptly without undue delay and will respond to you within a maximum of 10 working days.
We will check to see if you are satisfied with the resolution. If you aren't happy with the initial response we will move to our formal complaints procedure, which has two stages:
Stage one - Local resolution
The Service Manager who is responsible for the service about which you complain will explain the reasons behind the decisions and actions.
We aim to acknowledge your complaint within five working days of receiving it and give you a full response within 10 working days of acknowledging receipt.
If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint then you can request within 28 days of the stage one response that the complaint is escalated to a stage two complaint, stating reasons why you feel your complaint hasn't been addressed. If we don't hear from you within 28 days, we'll consider your complaint closed.
Stage two - Formal investigation
If the complaint has not been resolved under stage one, or you are unhappy with the outcome then you can request that a stage two investigation is undertaken.
Stage two is a request for a corporate investigation. It is a comprehensive consideration of the complaint by a senior officer appointed by the Chief Executive to carry out the investigation. That senior officer will be employed in a different service area to the one about which you complain. The outcome will be a formal written report of the investigation. As with the stage one, we will acknowledge your concerns within five working days. We will then complete the further investigation and reply, normally within 30 working days of our acknowledgement.
We aim to complete all complaints within the timescales above; however, if a complaint is very complex it may be necessary to extend the time limit. We will tell you as soon as we know if there is a delay in replying to you.
Local Government Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman
There may 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 or the Housing Ombudsman who will consider your complaint and investigate, if appropriate.
The Ombudsmen are independent bodies responsible for investigating complaints from or on behalf of members of the public of alleged injustice arising from maladministration on the part of local authorities and of certain other bodies. They offer a free and independent service.
The Ombudsman will normally expect a complainant to have had their complaint investigated at all stages of the council's complaints policy before they will consider looking into their complaint.
If you wish to refer your complaint to the LGO then please contact them using the links above.
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
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. Our unacceptable behaviour policy explains what is classed as unreasonable.
The council supports the objectives of the Data Protection Act 1998 and is registered as a data processor. If you use our complaints procedure, you are agreeing that we can use any personal information you send us for purposes connected with your complaint.
We may also give your personal information to other people and organisations if we have to do so by law or if you have given us permission.
What is not a complaint?
The council cannot deal with issues over which it has no control. For example:
- a complaint about a housing association
- a complaint about a company providing transport services
- a complaint about highways or on street parking
What if you have a concern but do not want to make a formal complaint?
Sometimes you might want to let us know of something that you are concerned about, but do not want to make a formal complaint
You can tell us about your concern either by completing the online customer satisfaction survey, in person, by telephone or by letter using the contact details supplied above. Your concern will be passed to a service manager to look into. If you would like us to get back to you about your concern, please tell us when you contact us.