We aim to provide an excellent experience every time a customer uses our services, but occasionally things do go wrong. When that happens, we would like the opportunity to put things right.
If a service falls below our expected standard, we expect officers to work with customers to resolve any issues as quickly as possible. Where this still does not resolve the issue, customers may want to make a formal complaint.
Complaints, comments and compliments from customers help us identify when we have done well and where we could do better.
We pass on compliments to staff and look carefully at comments and complaints to see where we can review our processes to see how we can make improvements.
Who can make a complaint?
We accept complaints from residents, local businesses, visitors to the district, suppliers of services, community groups and any other groups or individuals who use or are affected by our services.
We also accept complaints from people acting on behalf of someone else, such as councillors, members of parliament (MPs) and representatives.
We cannot investigate a complaint where data protection could be compromised as a result of responding, without the explicit consent of the person the complaint concerns.
What is a complaint?
Complaints are usually made when someone is dissatisfied with a council service and needs an explanation or response. It might be about the:
- Failure to deliver a service.
- Delay in providing a service.
- Quality of service.
- Behaviour of a member of staff.
- Failure to follow an agreed policy.
What isn’t a complaint?
We do not consider the following to be a complaint:
- A request for a service, for example noise nuisance, removal of flytipping, or a missed recycling or waste collection. You can request a service by calling us or report it online.
- A request for information or an explanation of council or government policy.
- Where there is a disagreement with the result of a process which has its own appeal process, for example planning decisions, benefit decisions and parking fines.
If you have an issue or complaint about a councillor, these need to be made in a different way. These can be made by e-mailing the Monitoring Officer, or by post to the Monitoring Officer, Tandridge District Council, Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT.
How can customers complain?
To make a complaint customers can:
- Complete a Complaints form.
- Contact customer services.
- Write to Customer Services, Tandridge District Council, Council Offices, 8 Station Road East, Oxted RH8 0BT.
- Visit our offices in Oxted and we will record the complaint.
- Call 01883 722000 and a Customer Services Advisor will complete a form for a customer over the phone.
We cannot accept a complaint on social media, as it is too difficult to capture information and not practical if it is sensitive or confidential. When a complaint is received via social media we will respond to ask people to contact us in one of the above ways.
While all complaints are dealt with confidentially, we do need contact details, as we cannot deal with anonymous complaints.
How to make a complaint
We expect many complaints to be quickly and easily resolved by contacting the member of staff or team providing the service. If that is not possible the process outlined below will be followed. At each stage it is important to make clear:
- What the complaint is about.
- Which officers or teams are involved.
- What action has been taken so far.
Stage 1 - Resolution
If customers are not satisfied with the service they have received from us, they can make a Stage 1 complaint. Our aim is to resolve any complaint we receive at this stage as quickly as possible.
Our Team Leaders or Specialists for the service area will investigate complaints and respond. While we hope to resolve any complaint immediately, for Stage 1 we will:
- Acknowledge complaints within 2 working days.
- Fully investigate and respond to complaints within 10 working days.
At Stage 1 the response may be given verbally, as this will often get to the heart of the problem more quickly and can lead to a faster resolution with no need for a Stage 2 complaint. Notes of these conversations will be recorded, so it is clear what has been agreed or what action will be taken as a result. If a written response is also requested this will be provided.
Where the customer is not happy with the response to their Stage 1 complaint they can escalate it to Stage 2 to be reviewed.
Stage 2 - Review
For us to be able to fully respond, the customer must clearly explain why they are dissatisfied with the Stage 1 investigation and what they think we can do to put matters right.
Stage 2 complaints will be reviewed by a member of the Senior Leadership Team from a different service area. They will focus on understanding the continuing concerns, whether the Stage 1 Resolution process was undertaken fairly and the conclusions reached reasonable.
For Stage 2 we will aim to:
- Acknowledge complaints within 2 working days.
- Fully investigate and respond to complaints within 10 working days. Where this is not possible we will contact the customer to let them know when they can expect a reply.
Stage 3 - Ombudsman
We hope we can sort out any problems quickly and successfully. If customers are still not happy with the response they have received at Stage 2, they will be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman. If your complaint is housing-related, you should contact the Housing Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about councils with the aim of putting things right if they have gone wrong.
How we prevent and learn from complaints received
Our Locality Team is integral to helping us manage and respond to service complaints eg bins, planning issues etc. The team will feedback information they receive or find out which could lead to potential complaints, so we can intervene at an earlier stage to prevent a complaint.
Our councillors are also encouraged to flag up any issues and work with us to resolve problems.
As part of the Stage 1 investigations, team leaders will review the process or practice used to highlight where improvements could be made. Any changes will be recorded in the system with a record of the action taken as a result eg staff training, change to system or process etc.
At Stage 2 a member of the Senior Leadership Team will review the response to Stage 1 to see if we could have prevented it escalating to Stage 2.
We will encourage teams to take ownership of complaints and do their utmost to resolve them and use them to improve the service. At all stages we will ensure we share and discuss the learnings from complaints across the organisation.
Where are complaints reported?
Complaints are reported each month to the Senior Leadership Team and quarterly to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and we will publish details about what has changed as a result of any complaints.
How we manage unreasonable complaint behaviour
We know it is frustrating when we do not meet your expectations. We will do everything we can to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. We will always treat customers fairly and with respect, regardless of their complaint and most customers who contact us are polite and reasonable.
In return, we ask customers to:
- Treat our staff with respect.
- Not use abusive language or behaviour when dealing with us.
- Comply with all reasonable requests we make in trying to resolve concerns.
On the rare occasion when a customer makes a complaint in an unreasonable way for example repeatedly, obsessively or aggressively, we will write to them explaining what action we are taking to resolve the matter. This could include restricting how the complainant contacts us and who they can contact.
Any decision to class a complainant as unreasonable will be made by our Monitoring Officer or an Executive Head of Service. 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.
Download a copy of the Complaints Policy.