Ombudsman enquiry into local government complaints handling

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The Victorian Ombudsman has started an enquiry into complaints handling at local councils to identify how practices and procedures can be improved.

The Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, said that as a result of the own motion enquiry, the Ombudsman’s office would develop a good practice guide to help local councils better handle community complaints.

“Every citizen has some form of contact with their local council, and local councils are one of the biggest areas my office receives complaints about.” Ms Glass said.

“I believe that many of these complaints should be able to be resolved before they reach the Ombudsman," she said.

"We know that more robust, transparent and effective complaints handling procedures lead to better resolution rates, and reduce the need for complaints to be passed on to the Ombudsman’s office.

“By developing a good practice guide we aim to give local councils the tools they need to better handle complaints and respond to the public.

“Of course, the Ombudsman’s office will remain as the safety net for those complaints that cannot be resolved at council level."

Since 2008, complaints about local councils have consistently comprised around 25 – 30 per cent of complaints to the Ombudsman’s office.

Ms Glass announced the enquiry at a meeting of local council CEOs in Melbourne today and said her office would work with local councils to conduct the enquiry.

“We are seeking information from Victorian local councils about the way they currently handle complaints, and will meet with people in councils, and groups who deal with them, to help us understand the current situation," Ms Glass said.

“We will also look at current best practice both in Australia and overseas to help develop the guide."

It is expected the completed enquiry and guide will be made public late this year.

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