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10.9.08 Complaints Handling Review

Executive committee meeting held on 10 September 2008.

Apparently Camden council is having a review of its complaints handling which ties in with the councils 'customer service programme'. 

REPORT TITLE: Customer Complaints – Annual Report 2007/2008

1. Summary of complaints performance
1.1 Camden aims to be a listening and responsive Council and is reviewing the way it works in order to improve customer services. Dealing with complaints is an important part of the work and the Council wants to improve the way it handles customer complaints.
1.2 This report provides a snap shot of those complaints that have entered the formal complaint process. The Council is required to receive such information as part of its performance monitoring responsibilities. Complaints are only a small part of the process of providing a service and obtaining customer feedback. The overwhelming majority of the contact from service users is in the manner of a request for service. A formal complaint will only arise if the initial contact has failed to deliver the desired service. The Council is phasing in a new two stage corporate complaint procedure to replace and improve on the former 3 stage procedure in operation since 1991/92. The first ‘Local Resolution’ stage will be for service departments and the ‘Review Stage’ will be undertaken centrally. The statutory complaint procedures for children and adult social care will still follow a 3 stage process, with different time scales and procedural requirements.

1.3 The revision of the corporate complaints process is one part of the developing strategy to transform customer service by listening to what our customers want and expect. The aim is to reduce both the number of complaints and the bureacracy involved. This strategy includes reducing the number of formal stages and changing the culture within the Council by encouraging staff to deal with complaints more speedily and sympthetically, apologising when things go wrong and taking action to resolve the source of complaints by learning lessons from what causes them.
1.4 A primary object of Camden’s corporate complaint procedures is to provide an open, accessible and accountable process that can offer an early resolution of disatisfaction with council services. A further objective is to protect the Council from receiving any final reports of maladministration and injustice from the Local Government Ombudsman, which can be costly and time consuming. Managers and staff are encouraged to recognise service failures, learn the lessons from complaints to improve service delivery and to follow the Ombudsman’s guidance on ‘Remedies’ when dealing with a formal complaint.

1.5 The key complaint outcomes in 2007/2008 were
  • The total number of complaints against Camden rose marginally when compared to the previous municipal year figure (to 2,470 from 2,432)
  • The total amount of compensation paid out in 2007/2008 was £92,737.26Ÿ There were no Final Reports of maladministration and injustice issued against Camden by the Local Government Ombudsman during the municipal year considered in this report. However, the Ombudsman did find against the Council in a case reported during the current municipal year, 2008/09 (see 3.1. below)..
  • In January 2008 Camden successfully retained the British Standards Institute (BSi) accreditation of ISO 10,002 for the entire complaint handling process.