Complaints 

Complaints

We recognise that sometimes we make mistakes, and that this can lead to complaints. When we get complaints, we will investigate and respond to them. You can read our full complaints policy [PDF, 0.3MB] to see our full commitment to you.

Before submitting a complaint please check that your issue doesn't fall within one of the following categories, which aren't part of the complaints process.

Service requests

If you are requesting a service (for example, collection of a missed bin, clearing up a fly-tip or giving you a call back) and don’t want a complaint investigation, please see the options on our contact us page.

The contact us page should also be used to make us aware of incidents that may have occurred in the district, for example fly-tipping and other types of envirocrime (such as abandoned vehicles, bonfires, dog fouling, graffiti and breaches of planning control).

Please note that where the complaints form is used to request a service or report an incident, the complaint will be closed upon receipt.

Feedback

If you just want to let us know how we did in relation to a service you have received, and do not need an investigation and written response, please visit our feedback page.

Appeals

If you want to question a decision that we have made in relation to a service that has its own appeals process or right to legal action (for example, a planning appeal, Housing Benefit tribunal or Homelessness appeal), please contact us.

Other cases that aren't dealt with as complaints:

  • Additional or duplicate information provided by a customer about a complaint that is already open in their name
  • Complaints relating to issues that the customer became aware of more than 12 months ago
  • Complaints relating to the conduct of Councillors. These are dealt with under the Council’s Code of Conduct Complaints Procedure and should be directed to the Monitoring Officer
  • Complaints made by suppliers, partners, and other public authorities regarding our business relationships
  • Internal complaints made about staff conduct. These are dealt with under our HR policies and procedures
  • Complaints that are not about the Council, including complaints about Ermine Street Housing (these are dealt with by Ermine Street Housing under their own complaints policy).

Submit a complaint

If your case does not fall into one of the categories listed above and you wish to submit a complaint, prompting an investigation and written response detailing our findings, please complete our online complaints form.

Complaints cannot be submitted anonymously, as this prevents us from being able to issue a response. All complaints that we receive are treated professionally and in confidence, however if you wish to report an issue about the Council anonymously, please visit our feedback page.

The complaints process

There are 3 stages of complaint that can submitted about us, starting with Stage 1, and progressing to Stage 2 and Stage 3. Details of each stage are provided below.

Stage 1 is the first step for any complaints submitted about the Council.

Once a Stage 1 complaint has been received, this will be allocated to a manager to review, investigate, and respond to the complaint.

Submit a stage 1 complaint

We aim to send responses detailing our findings in relation to Stage 1 complaints within 10 working days. In instances where it is not possible to meet this target, we will inform the customer of a revised and realistic target timescale at the earliest opportunity.

You can track the progress of your complaint and communicate with the investigating manager through your My South Cambs customer account. Our written response setting out our findings will also be available to view there.

We aim to address complaints effectively at Stage 1, however if you are unhappy with the response to your complaint at Stage 1, you can request that it is looked at again under Stage 2 of the process.

If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint at Stage 1, you can request that the complaint is looked at again at Stage 2.

You must go through Stage 1 of the process before starting Stage 2.

Under Stage 2 of the complaints process, the complaint will be passed to the Head of Service from the relevant area, or a nominated alternative who is independent from the review undertaken at Stage 1. They will review, investigate and respond to the complaint.

Submit a stage 2 complaint

We aim to send responses detailing our findings in relation to Stage 2 complaints within 20 working days. In instances where it is not possible to meet this target, we will inform the customer of a revised and realistic timescale at the earliest opportunity.

You can track the progress of your complaint and communicate with the investigating manager through your My South Cambs customer account. Our written response setting out our findings following investigation will also be available to view there.

If you are unhappy with the response at Stage 2 of the complaints process, you may wish to enter Stage 3 of the complaints process by submitting a complaint about the Council to the relevant Ombudsman.

If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint at Stage 2, you may wish to enter Stage 3 of the complaints process by submitting a complaint about the Council to the Local Government Ombudsman, or to the Housing Ombudsman for complaints relating to our relationship as a landlord to our housing tenants or leaseholders.

Any complaints relating to our Housing Options and Advice service fall within the remit of the Local Government Ombudsman and not the Housing Ombudsman.

The Local Government Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman services aim to remedy injustices through impartial, rigorous, and proportionate investigations into complaints about local government and social housing organisations.

Once we are notified by the Local Government Ombudsman or Housing Ombudsman that a Stage 3 complaint has been submitted, it will be passed to the appropriate Head of Service, who will review the complaint and respond directly to the relevant ombudsman within 28 calendar days.

Following investigation, either the Local Government Ombudsman or Housing Ombudsman (depending on the nature of the complaint, as detailed above) will write to the customer notifying them of their decision. The Council will also receive a copy of their findings, with relevant action points, if applicable.

 

Things to know

What is an unreasonable (vexatious) or unreasonably persistent complaint?

We recognise that customers are likely to be persistent when they believe they have been subjected to a mistake or failure. In most cases, this persistence is reasonable and justified.

As outlined by the Local Government Ombudsman, the point at which persistence becomes unreasonable is when the nature or frequency of a customer’s contact with us starts to hinder the consideration of their, or other people’s complaints. This could either be during or following the completion of a complaint investigation.

Designating a complaint as vexatious or unreasonably persistent

The complaints process is intended to give redress to residents and businesses where they do not agree that the Council has dealt with their case correctly.

Where the Council concludes that an individual or organisation is not using this complaints process in the spirit in which it is intended, it can – with the agreement of the Council’s Leadership Team – designate a complaint, individual and/or organisation as being vexatious or unreasonably persistent.

Where this decision is made the Council will record the decision and the reasons for making it, set a decision review date (of no longer than 18 months), and communicate this to the customer. The results of the review will again be agreed with the Council’s Leadership Team.

Before designating a complaint, person or organisation as vexatious or unreasonably persistent, we must first be satisfied that:

  • the complaint is being or has been investigated properly and in accordance with this policy
  • any decision reached is the right one
  • communications with the customer have been adequate
  • the complainant is not now providing any significant new information that might affect the organisation’s view on the complaint.

In all cases the objective is to take a proportionate approach to ensuring that complaints can be dealt with quickly, fairly and without distraction. Examples of action that may be taken are:

  • Choosing not to respond to the complaint or correspondence relating to it
  • Placing limits on the number and duration of contacts with staff per week or month
  • Offering a restricted time slot for necessary calls
  • Limiting the complainant to one medium of contact (for example, telephone, letter, or email)
  • Requiring the complainant to communicate only with one named member of staff as set out within the Council's Single Point of Contact (SPOC) Protocol [PDF, 0.2MB]
  • Requiring any personal contacts to take place in the presence of a witness and in a suitable location
  • Refusing to register and process further complaints about the same matter.

There is no right of appeal against decisions to designate a complaint, person or organisation as vexatious and unreasonably persistent. If a customer believes that they have been unfairly treated through this process, they may wish to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman or Housing Ombudsman.

We understand how distressing it can be if things go wrong, but it is important that we all ensure that communications do not become abusive.

Abusive behaviours include swearing, shouting or any type of physically or verbally threatening behaviour, and will not be tolerated and will result in steps being taken to protect our staff and contractors. These may include (but are not limited to) the restriction of access to our offices, or the requirement for all communication to be undertaken in writing. 

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