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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 23/01/2006
Scoping Report - Study of Waverley's Complaints Procedure




[Wards Affected: All]
Summary and purpose:

At the meeting of the Committee in May 2005, it was agreed that an in-depth review should be carried out to examine the effectiveness of Waverley's complaints handling procedures. The purpose of this report is to establish the parameters for the review and proposes that it be conducted along the lines of a parliamentary select committee investigation.
Environmental implications

There are no direct environmental implications associated with this report.

Social/Community implications

Part of the review is to establish the level of customer satisfaction. This will have a bearing on the public’s perception of the Council and will help the Council decide its priorities to meet customer needs.

E-Government implications:

Part of the review will be to consider how e-Government initiatives could contribute to the efficient handling of complaints. In particular, the review would evaluate and consider how the complaints tracking system used in Waverley can be used to improve the service provided. In addition the review will examine procedures for handling emailed complaints.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no direct resource and legal implications associated with this report other than the officer time involved in the review. The cost and any legal implications that emerge from the review will be included as part of the final report.

1. The decision of this Committee to select the effectiveness of Waverley’s complaints procedures as an area for in-depth review reflects the importance that members’ place on how the Council interacts and serves its customers across all services and delivers customer focused services.

2. Waverley received 464 complaints in the last fiscal year (2004-05). Complaints are received from members of the public in writing, by email or by telephone. The complaint can be addressed directly to a department or to the Chief Executive. Members also receive complaints from the public. Complaints are also received by the Local Government Ombudsman who, as part of his investigations, will ask the Council for their observations concerning the complaint.

3. The Council’s Formal Complaints Procedure states that a full response will be sent within 15 working days, or for complicated cases, a progress report will be sent within the same timescale.

4. The Council’s Formal Complaints Procedure was introduced in 1993. In the autumn of 2003 the procedure was subject to an internal review, and a revised procedure was introduced in January 2004, supported by a written policy and procedures and a new complaints form that can be downloaded from the Council’s website. The Council also has a dedicated complaints email address.

5. Currently the Council uses a Lotus Notes Database to track the handling of complaints. This software allows for only a limited analysis of complaints and a new computer system for complaints handling, provided by Datix, is to be introduced Council-wide at the end of January.

6. The outcome of this review will assist the Council in reaching conclusions over the effectiveness of Waverley’s handling of complaints.

Scope of the review

7. It is proposed that the review of the complaints procedures examines and focuses on addressing the following key questions:
I. What is the level of customer satisfaction following receipt of the results of an investigation for people who have made a complaint to the Council?

II. How can the Council make members of the public more aware of Waverley’s complaints procedures and encourage them to make use of it?

III. What are the existing procedures for answering customers’ complaints?

IV. What standards and strategies are in place across the Council?

V. How do other authorities deal with customers’ complaints and what can we learn from best practices and initiatives?

VI. What are members’ views/experiences of the effectiveness of Waverley’s complaints procedures?

VII. How can we improve service delivery and therefore customer satisfaction?

VIII. What are the procedures for monitoring and reporting complaints?

The review process

8. The suggested process and an outline timetable for the review is set out below:

March/April 2006

i) Information gathering and proposals for customer satisfaction questionnaire.

ii) Members to arrange visits to other authorities to establish how their procedures work.

End May 2006

iii) Interviews with frontline and other staff dealing with complaints, possibly to be carried out by a sub-committee of members.

iv) Conduct member survey.

June 2006

v) Progress Report with evidence gathered to date.

vi) Consideration of the Committee’s Draft Report

vii) Publication of Final Report


It is recommended that:

1. the Committee considers the scope of the review into complaints handling procedures and agrees the key questions to be addressed by the review; and

2. the review be conducted in accordance with the process and outline timetable set out above.

Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


Name: Peter Driscoll Telephone: 01483 523477
E-mail: pdriscoll@waverley.gov.uk