Agenda item

Annual complaints report - 2021/22

To receive a report from the customer services manager.


The committee received and noted the annual complaints report for 2021/22 presented by presented by Councillor Debby Hallett, the Vale of White Horse District Council cabinet member for corporate services and transformation, along with the customer services manager and the customer services team leader.


The report was a review of formal complaints from 2021/22, updated since April 2022. Councillor Hallett informed the committee that all formal complaints, including stage one complaints, were now logged centrally, tracked by the customer services team, and published on the complaints section of the website. Although both councils saw a significant rise in stage one complaints, there was a reduction in complaints going to stage two. Councillor Hallett noted that this increase was mainly due complaints for finance due to the COVID backlog. The service standard was to respond to complaints within 15 working days, and the report indicated that this was mainly achieved but some finance and planning responses took longer due to their complex nature.


Councillor Hallett also brought to members attention a note by the Chief Executive who wanted to inform members that the finance complaints were almost always related to revenues and benefits operated by Capita, and the review of Capita’s performance was dealt with by the Five Council’s Partnership Joint Committee.


The committee was also informed about the interim results for 2022/23, which showed that complaints about finance had increased, mainly due to council tax reduction scheme, and work was underway to reduce the backlog; but that the housing and environment complaints had returned to normal levels.


Finally, Councillor Hallett discussed the role of the Local Government Ombudsman, who was a key part of the complaints process, fulfilling a formal independent statutory function, and was a service that the council was actively seeking to promote to complainants.



Members then asked about finance complaints and how they could be reduced. The customer services manager responded, saying that these complaints were mainly around benefits and council tax which had experienced an increase in customer contact related to a number of energy rebate and grant schemes, and that there were times where Capita struggled to deal with that increase. The head of finance also spoke to this increase noting that the Capita team dealt with that increase as well as the business and household grants which had strict government deadlines, all of which would have understandably affected their ability to deal with their ordinary work. However, he believed that in the second half of the year the backlog was reducing, and the councils were seeing less stage two complaints than in the first half of the year. In terms of Capita’s performance, members also noted that they had their own standards from which they need to meet, or face a financial penalty, but that this was beyond the scope of the complaints’ report.


Members then asked about the reason behind the similar volume of complaints at stage two and those going to the Local Government Ombudsman. The customer services manager and team leader responded by clarifying that complainants can only go to the Ombudsman if they had been through the council’s stage one and stage two complaints process and that it was the complainant’s choice as to whether they seek an independent review through the Ombudsman.


Overall, members commented that they were happy with the level of complaints given the difficulties over the past year and also were satisfied that the majority of the complaints were being address at stage one. The committee thanked both the council team and Capita for their work in dealing with the numerous government grant schemes that they have had to administer. Finally, members were encouraged to make officers aware of complaints from residents as this helped the councils to understand what the residents were experiencing in order for them to be addressed and monitored.



RESOLVED: to note the formal complaints received in 2021-22 and performance in responding to complaints against timescales set out in the council’s corporate Complaints Policy and Procedure.



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