Complaints

We are committed to delivering high quality services and we aim to achieve the highest possible standards. However, despite our best intentions and hard work, things can sometimes go wrong.

What is a complaint?

In line with the definition provided by the Local Government and Social Care and the Housing Ombudsman Services, a complaint is defined as:

"an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of a service, actions or lack of actions by the council, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual or group of individuals.”

A complaint may be about:

  • where we or our contractors have failed to provide a service to an acceptable standard
  • there has been a delay in providing a service, or we have not kept you informed of progress when providing a service
  • we have not rectified a problem or acted on a request for a service to be provided
  • our staff or contractors have behaved in an unfair, discourteous or discriminatory manner

Complaints about councillors

If your complaint is about one or more of our elected councillors, please .  

What is not a complaint?

  • a request for a service (for example a missed waste collection, requesting a repair for the first time, or reporting problems like flytipping or litter). These may subsequently be treated as a complaint if we don’t deal with the original request. , or use the links below
  • requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act or the Data Protection Act
  • disagreement with a decision where a right of appeal exists, either within the council or externally (e.g. Benefits tribunal, Planning inquiry and Penalty Charge Notices)  
  • an attempt to reopen a previously concluded complaint or to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision
  • services which are the responsibility of another organisation, for example highways or potholes, education and adult social care (West Sussex County Council), health matters (NHS), or local bus services (Metrobus)
  • where we have taken legal action that we has a duty to perform, such as recovery of Council Tax or enforcement action
  • a request for compensation only
  • when there is a formal legal claim against the council or legal dispute
  • when the matter is being dealt with through our insurers
  • disagreement with a council policy or legislation decision that we are applying when delivering a service
  • a request that we provide or improve a service

How to complain

Complaints can be submitted using our online complaints form, or by phoning 01293 438000, visiting the Town Hall or writing to Corporate Performance team, Governance People & Performance Division, The Create Building, The Boulevard, ֱ, West Sussex, RH10 1UZ.

Complaints can also be submitted via your local Councillor or Member of Parliament.

We are committed to ensuring the way we work does not place people who require assistance at a disadvantage when accessing our services. We will consider each request individually, aiming to agree and provide appropriate reasonable adjustments when they are needed and in compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

Please provide as much information as possible about your complaint. Tell us what went wrong, dates applicable to an incident you’re complaining about, supporting documents and how you would like us to resolve the matter.

Time limit for making complaints

Complaints should be made as soon as possible after the incident and no more than 12 months from the event or issue being complained about. Discretion may be applied to accepting complaints made outside this time limit where there are good reasons to do so.  

The complaints handling process

Our complaints policy is based on a two-stage process and includes complaints relating to our contractors who deliver services on our behalf. 

We will make reasonable adjustments for individuals where appropriate under the Equality Act 2010 and keep a record of any reasonable adjustments agreed. 

If the complaint includes issues for more than one part of the council, the investigation will be led by the person who has responsibility for the major part of the complaint. We will aim to provide you with a single response whenever possible.

If more information or additional complaints are raised during the complaint investigation and is relevant to the original issue and a response has not been provided, we will include these in our response. If, however the Stage 1 response has been issued, or the new issues are unrelated we will log it as a new complaint.

Stages of complaints

Stage 1

Stage 1 complaints are conducted by the relevant service manager.

  • we will acknowledge and log the complaint within five working days of the complaint being received
  • our acknowledgement will be made in writing (email or post) and will confirm our understanding of the complaint, the outcome you are seeking and the date you can expect to receive a response
  • we will issue a full response to Stage 1 complaints within 10 working days of the complaint being acknowledged
  • in the event an extension is required due to the complexity of the complaint, we will inform you of the expected timescale for the response. This should not exceed a further 10 working days and you will be provided with the details of the relevant Ombudsman
  • the complaint response will be provided when the answer to the complaint is known, not when the outstanding actions required to address the issues are completed. Outstanding actions will be tracked and actioned promptly, with appropriate updates provided
  • we will address all points raised in the complaint and provide clear reasons for any decisions, relevant policy, law and good practice where appropriate
     

Our response will set out the following in plain language:

  • the complaint stage and complaint definition
  • the decision on the complaint and the reasons for any decisions made
  • the details of any remedy offered to put things right
  • details of any outstanding actions
  • details of how to escalate the matter to Stage 2 if you are not satisfied with the response, or refer you to the relevant Ombudsman Service

The outcome and lessons learned will be logged to ensure continuous improvement of our services.

Stage 2

Stage 2 complaints are conducted by the relevant Head of Service and is the final stage of our complaints process. This review will ensure that all matters raised in the original complaint have been fully and accurately addressed, and if not, to ensure that this is rectified.   

  • we will acknowledge and log the complaint within five working days of the escalation being received
  • our acknowledgement will be made in writing (email or post) and will confirm our understanding of any outstanding issues of the complaint, the outcome you are seeking and the date you can expect to receive a response
  • we will issue a full response to Stage 2 complaints within 20 working days of the complaint being acknowledged
  • in the event an extension is required due to the complexity of the complaint, we will inform you of the expected timescale for the response. This should not exceed a further 20 working days and you will be provided with the details of the relevant Ombudsman
  • the complaint response will be provided when the answer to the complaint is known, not when the outstanding actions required to address the issues are completed. Outstanding actions will be tracked and actioned
  • we will address all points raised in the complaint and provide clear reasons for any decisions, relevant policy, law and good practice where appropriate
     

Our response will set out the following in plain language:

  • the complaint stage and complaint definition
  • the decision on the complaint and the reasons for any decisions made
  • the details of any remedy offered to put things right
  • details of any outstanding actions
  • details of how to escalate the matter to the Ombudsman Service if you remain dissatisfied. If the matter sits outside their jurisdiction, we will advise you where to take your complaint

This concludes our complaints process.

The outcome and lessons learned will be logged to ensure continuous improvement of our services.

If you are still dissatisfied

If you are unhappy with the way we have dealt with the issues of your complaint at any stage of the complaints process, you have the right to access the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Housing Ombudsman. The Ombudsman Service is a free service and will investigate complaints in a fair and independent way. 

The LGSCO provides impartial advice during and after our complaints process has been completed. They investigate complaints about councils, including housing allocations, planning issues, environment, regulation and waste services.

They can be contacted as follows:


PO Box 4771
Coventry
CV4 0EH

Telephone: 0300 061 0614

The Housing Ombudsman provides impartial advice for social housing residents during and after our complaints process has been completed. They investigate complaints about housing management, repairs, leaseholder complaints, transfers and mutual exchanges.  .  

They can be contacted as follows:  

Housing Ombudsman Service
PO Box 1484
Unit D
Preston
PR2 0ET

Telephone: 0300 111 3000 
info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

Unreasonably persistent complaints

We value all kinds of feedback. Expressions of dissatisfaction are treated seriously and recognised as a way for us to improve our services. We are also accountable for the proper use of public money and must ensure that that money is spent wisely and achieves value for complainants and the wider public. 

Dealing with a complaint is usually a straightforward process. But in a minority of cases, people pursue their complaints in a way which can either hinder the investigation of their, or other people’s complaint or can cause significant resource issues for the council.

This can happen either while their complaint is being investigated, or once the council has finished dealing with the complaint. We are committed to dealing with all complaints equitably, comprehensively, and in good time. However, where we feel a complainant is behaving unreasonably, we will take appropriate steps to address this. More details are in our Complaints policy.