Enquiry into how local councils handle complaints from the public

Wednesday 6 February 2019

All of Victoria’s 79 local councils will be surveyed on how they handle complaints from the public as part of an enquiry undertaken by Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass.

Ms Glass said the enquiry would assess the practices councils follow when handling complaints, including whether they make it easy for people to complain, take action to resolve complaints and analyse their own complaint data to improve services.

It will assess the extent to which councils have implemented advice from the Victorian Ombudsman’s 2015 Councils and complaints – A good practice guide and whether more tools need to be developed to assist councils. It will also assess the level of consistency between councils in how they record complaints.

“Complaints about local government typically account for about a quarter of all complaints to my office each year,” Ms Glass said.

“Given the breadth of services councils provide to Victorian communities, this comes as no surprise,” she said.

“But it is important that councils themselves are responsive to the concerns being raised by their communities. Complaints are free feedback, and if used effectively, help councils improve their service to the public. We want to work with councils to ensure they’re encouraged and equipped to resolve complaints in a fair and timely manner.”

Ms Glass said analysis of the survey results may identify processes that councils are struggling to implement and areas where the good practice guide could be improved. The survey findings may also indicate other avenues for the Victorian Ombudsman to help councils improve their complaint handling processes. For example, councils may identify that their staff need further training in managing challenging behaviour, dealing with vulnerable complainants, or analysing complaint data to identify systemic issues.

The findings are expected to be released in mid-2019.

Media contact: Ainslie Gowan | Tel 03 9613 6235 | Mob 0409 936 235 |  ainslie.gowan@ombudsman.vic.gov.au