CIC: How to complain to councils


3:41 pm - December 11th 2008

by Tony Kennick    


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All this week, Liberal Conspiracy will finish reviewing the Communities in Control White Paper launched by Hazel Blears recently.

Chapter Six of the Communities in Control White Paper is entitled “redress” and details proposals about what should happen when the public aren’t happy with a service.

The chapter’s introduction starts with the suggestion that the country is not in the bad old days of “wait of many weeks for a phone to be installed” and follows up with three statistics, one in five people complain to their council every year, only 34 percent of those people are happy with how that complaint is dealt with but 55% of people believe this service is better than what they receive from the private sector.

Next is a mission statement for complaints procedures.

  • the citizen is the most important person in any transaction, and has a right to decent, agreed standards of service and care
  • everyone should have easy access to clear information
  • both sides should have a clear understanding of what is expected from each other
  • systems of redress and compensation should be clearly explained and understood
  • services should learn from the complaints received and make sure that this learning influences delivery next time

The next section details the measures currently in place including a puff for the 101 non-emergency number that the government has abandoned direct funding for and the Local Government Ombudsman with their new contact centre. Then we get the meat of the matter, communities can’t expect any of this without doing ‘their bit’. Community contracts or with great power comes great responsibility, sorry “New rights and powers must be balanced by responsibilities and duties.”

The case study for this policy initiative tells of a community in Staffordshire that in return for delivering some services themselves (community gardens being the started example) they get informed who is responsible for dealing with dog poo, which presumably was confidential before.

After a brief paragraph that, not only points out that anyone can already use a pledgebank (with a link to mySociety.org’s excellent tool) but also suggest that the Communities and Local Government mob will be looking to trial the idea in 2009, we get to the last four paragraphs which actually talk about things that fit the dictionary definition of Redress.

The suggestion here is that councils should buy into the concept of financial compensation, giving two examples of housing associations that give cash or vouchers to tenants whose repairs are late.

There are in my opinion two, related, problems with this chapter. The idea of compensation just mentioned is one; it is unashamedly modelled on schemes such as those provided by train operators and try as I might I cannot remember a single occasion when I have been happy that I have been given vouchers because my train was delayed.

I would always have been much happier if the train had been on time in the first place. This of course is just a specific case of the other, wider, problem with the chapter which is that it has been included in the white paper in the first place. Instead there should b a chapter on what the government proposes to do to help councils provided better services in the first place.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Tony Kennick writes on topics ranging from politics and UK constitutional reform to food, on his blog.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,CIC paper ,e) Briefings ,Local Government ,Our democracy

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Reader comments


1. Alisdair Cameron

“The case study for this policy initiative tells of a community in Staffordshire that in return for delivering some services themselves (community gardens being the started example) they get informed who is responsible for dealing with dog poo, which presumably was confidential before.”
Really?
Gob-smacking.
How arse around tit is that? The community stumps up for the blighter’s salary, and for the information around it, but then has to do bleeding bob-a-job tasks to be allowed that info.
If it’s genuinely confidential info* , it shouldn’t get released no matter what the community does by way of ‘task’, if it’s not confidential then it should be available without any extra chores.

*(for the record, I believe that very very little info falls into such a category, and that certainly does not include commercial confidentiality or other such hogwash:who’s footing the bill for this commerce?)

2. dreamingspire

The tendency to find one tiny nugget of gold (or fool’s gold?) in all of the mess has become common in the public sector – we are not fooled. Also common is failure of the pontificator to show any possibility of actually helping the part of the public sector that is being identified as not currently up to the job. Always each group is entirely responsible for its own area, yet without being given both the mandatory requirement, the funding and the accountability to develop competency and apply it to service delivery. Like most Councils, I suspect, mine has good bits and bad bits – but the call centres completely fail to work to established standards of logging and traceability. (Thankfully, the Information Commissioner is trying to establish that every public sector group has a duty of care and must not provide misleading information to other groups in relation to safeguarding personal data.)


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New blog post: CIC: How to complain to councils http://tinyurl.com/cf7jwv





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