Report exposes gaps in Council complaint policies about contractors

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The Council’s handling of the complaint was contrary to the spirit of its own policy, not to mention the Local Government Act, both of which adopt a broad definition of complaint.” Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said.

The report Councils and complaints: Glen Eira City Council’s approach to contractor work, tabled today, details one individual’s experience and potentially broader issues affecting councils and their communities across Victoria.

The Victorian Ombudsman investigation found widespread inconsistency in the way councils across the state handle complaints about the services they outsource to third-party contractors.

The report details the difficulty local resident, Mr Wilson faced trying to get a broken pipe fixed to stop flooding under his home. When Mr Wilson’s plumber said footpath works had likely damaged the pipe, he emailed the Glen Eira City Council.

The Council treated Mr Wilson’s concerns as a ‘claim’ rather than a ‘complaint’, and insisted he deal directly with the Council’s footpath contractor. Mr Wilson did not feel confident about doing this.

The report examines whether the Council’s approach to Mr Wilson’s concerns was in line with the complaint handling provisions of the Local Government Act 2020 (Vic) and does not focus on the cause of the alleged damage or liability for it.

“While this complaint involved one ratepayer and one council, I am tabling this report to highlight bigger issues. One is that complaints matter, and councils should not be paying lip service to the broad definition in the Local Government Act.”

“Second, during our investigation we found Victoria’s 79 councils adopt widely varying approaches to handling matters involving contractor work, and it appears many may have more work to do in developing and explaining their processes for these types of complaints.” Ms Glass said.

Our review found that 30 of Victoria’s 79 councils included a dedicated section in their policy on how complaints about contractors are managed, and among those 30 were many different approaches.

Councils are an integral part of the lives of Victorians and complaint handling is core business for councils. This report should further assist them in managing their complaints processes better.

Link to report.