Ombudsman to probe council complaints

Survey will examine how local government handles, resolves and records complaints from the public.

The extent to which Victoria’s councils have implemented advice on complaints handling released in 2015 will be examined in a new inquiry by Victoria’s Ombudsman Deborah Glass.

Ms Glass will survey all 79 local governments in the state to assess the practices they 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 ombudsman in 2015 on good practice for handling complaints, and whether more tools need to be developed to assist councils.

It will also probe the level of consistency between councils in how they record complaints, the ombudsman said.

“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.”

Analysis of the survey results could identify processes that councils are struggling to implement and areas where the good practice guide could be improved, Ms Glass said.

The survey findings may also indicate other avenues for the 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, she said.

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

It follows the release last May of a guide for councils on managing “challenging behaviours” from members of the public.

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One thought on “Ombudsman to probe council complaints

  1. The evidence is against ‘bigger is better’.
    In 2013, Queensland’s LNP government held referendums in four communities that had spent years lobbying for council amalgamations to be reversed. In all four cases, the referendums succeeded, leading to the deamalgamation of the Noosa, Douglas, Livingstone and Mareeba councils from the larger shires they had been merged with.
    Mounting evidence suggests that amalgamation across Queensland has not led to
    more efficient services, productivity or delivery. Regional mergers reduced
    competition between regions, which weakened incentives for efficiency and
    responsiveness to local needs, while also reducing the choice for residents to
    find a community that best matches their ideal taxation and service rates.

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