This page defines what we mean by 'complaints' and sets out our procedure for dealing with them.
A complaint is more than purely an objection to the merits of a decision or action by the Council or its staff. A complaint is a claim of impropriety, irregularity, misconduct, poor performance or ineffectiveness. In other words, a complaint is concerned with the manner in which a decision has been made or action taken, rather than with the decision or action itself. This can include undue delay or failure to act or make decisions.
This procedure covers complaints from people who are not employed by the Council. There are existing procedures for whistleblowing and staff grievances.
Where your complaint is not against the Council but against another body then we will give you what advice we can as to how your complaint could be pursued.
In the first instance, if you have a complaint which you consider should be dealt with by the Council then you should write to the member of staff who dealt with you, or their manager, so that they have a chance to put things right. In your letter you should set out the details of your complaint, the consequences for you as a result, and the remedy you are seeking. You can expect your complaint to be acknowledged within five working days of receipt. HEFCE will write to you within 30 working days of receipt of your complaint to advise you of our response or to let you know if we need more time to consider your complaint. If we need more time, we will provide you with an estimate of when we will respond further.
If you are not satisfied with this response then you can write to the Chief Executive and ask for your complaint and our response to be reviewed. You can expect the Chief Executive to acknowledge your complaint within five working days and to respond within 30 working days of receipt of your complaint to advise you of their response or to let you know if they need more time to consider your complaint. If they need more time, they will provide you with an estimate of when they will respond further. The Chief Executive will give you reasons for upholding or revising our original response. The reply will be copied to the Clerk to the Board.
The Council also has an independent procedure for appealing against the decision of the Chief Executive.
If you are not satisfied with the Chief Executive's response then you can write to the Clerk to the Board asking for your complaint to be considered by the Board's complaints panel. This panel comprises two external members drawn from a pool of suitably experienced figures independent of the Council, and is chaired by a non-executive Board member.
The panel will normally be convened within 30 days and serviced by the Clerk to the Board. It will have the authority to advise the Chief Executive and to report to the Board. You should write to the Clerk within two months of receiving the Chief Executive's response if you want the panel to hear your complaint.
The Board's complaints procedure has been kept as simple as possible. The Clerk will collate the papers relating to your complaint and will send them to panel members at least one week before they consider your complaint. The panel may not necessarily meet, and will not normally hold a hearing. You will be informed of the membership of the panel. They may well do their work by correspondence or by videoconference and will not normally ask to meet with you unless there are matters of fact to resolve.
If the panel identifies gaps in the information, then it may approach either you or Council staff to supply what is missing. You will have the chance to reply to any fresh information supplied by Council staff.
When the panel has considered your complaint, then its decision and the reasons will be sent both to you and to the Chief Executive within 10 working days of considering your complaint. It is open to the panel to recommend reforms and remedies to the Chief Executive. The panel may also suggest the basis of a settlement or reconciliation between you and the Council.
You cannot appeal against the panel's decision, but if you send any fresh information to the Clerk to the Board then it will be put to the panel and it will review its decision if appropriate. The panel is the final Council process for dealing with complaints. This does not prevent you using other processes (such as complaining to the Parliamentary Ombudsman) but we would like the opportunity to put matters right first ourselves.
The panel will not consider a complaint that is the subject of legal proceedings or judged to be trivial or vexatious. Complaints of financial impropriety will be referred to the Council's internal audit service.
You will not be expected to pay anything towards the cost of the panel's work. We will pay its expenses and operating costs such as postage and copying. You will, however, be expected to pay your own costs, although it is open to the panel to recommend in certain cases that we should contribute towards your costs.
If you have questions about this procedure then please contact:Louisa Baker
Telephone 0117 931 7106
Fax 0117 931 7481
Page last updated 27 March 2013