Comments, compliments and complaints policy

Complaints procedure

Anyone who wishes to make a complaint may do so by:

  • visiting our website
  • email
  • in person
  • telephone
  • in writing

Complaints of any type can also be made via your local councillor.

Stage 1 - review and response

The purpose of a stage 1 review is to investigate a complaint where informal resolution has not been possible or the complainant remains dissatisfied. Once it has been established that the complaint cannot be resolved informally, full details should be submitted to the Customer Relations Team in order for it to be logged and sent to the appropriate department to be investigated.

The Customer Relations Team will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within three working days. If the complaint cannot be resolved straight away a full response should be sent to the complainant within twenty working days of receipt of the complaint.

It is important at this stage that the complainant be reassured that:

  • their complaint will be treated as confidential
  • their identity will not be made public
  • they will not receive adverse treatment from the council because of the complaint
  • the complaint is being taken seriously

The Customer Relations Team will send a reminder to officers investigating a stage 1 response at least 5 working days before their response is due to be sent to the complainant.

If the complaint cannot be resolved within twenty working days of the original complaint, the investigating officer should advise the Customer Relations Team as soon as possible. The Customer Relations Team will inform the complainant in writing before offering the complainant the opportunity to progress to stage 2.

For the avoidance of doubt and for the purposes of this policy, 'working days' refers to days that Customer Service centres are open to Newcastle-under- Lyme Borough Council customers (this usually excludes the days between Christmas Day and New Year's Day and statutory bank holidays).

Stage 2 - independent internal review

The Customer Relations Officer will normally be the single point of contact used to deal with all stage 2 customer complaints. The promotion of a single point of contact will prove beneficial for both customers and the council as it will provide a coordinated approach to complaints handling.

The purpose of stage 2 is to give customers the opportunity to identify where they feel that the complaint was not adequately investigated at stage 1. This may include highlighting where the stage 1 response is considered by the complainant to be incomplete, unclear or unhelpful. In these instances, the customer must outline the reasons why they are not satisfied, provide any relevant evidence and state what outcome they would like to see. A stage 2 review will usually only be considered if received by the council within ten working days of receipt of the stage 1 response. There may be instances where it is deemed appropriate to agree an extension to the ten working day requirement.

An escalation to stage 2 will not normally be considered if the complainant does not provide evidence or information to show that the stage 1 response is not adequate. Stage 2 should not simply be invoked because a customer disagrees with the response at stage 1.

Should the Customer Relations Officer or the Customer Relations Team be the subject of the complaint, an alternative senior officer will be appointed to investigate the case.

The Customer Relations Officer will:

  • formally record the complaint details
  • summarise the main issues to be resolved, and agree these with the customer where appropriate
  • investigate the complaint unless otherwise agreed
  • provide a detailed response to the customer setting out the findings and the reasons for the findings

The Customer Relations Officer may extend the response time at stage 2 if the complainant wishes to submit further evidence at a later date.

The Customer Relations Officer will normally require the co-operation of staff from other services to help investigate and resolve the complaint. Any requested information must be provided to the investigating officer within five working days unless otherwise agreed.

The Customer Relations Officer will aim to respond fully to stage 2 complaints within twenty working days. If this is not possible, correspondence will be sent to inform the complainant of what is being done to deal with the complaint, and when the complainant can expect a full reply.