Councils and complaints – a report on current practice and issues

Local government Local government administration Victoria

Councils play a vital role in the community. Victoria’s 79 councils deliver a diverse range of property, economic, human, recreational and cultural services. They maintain infrastructure valued at more than $40 billion – including roads, public buildings, libraries and parks – and are also responsible for enforcing state and local laws relating to planning, public health, traffic, parking and animal management.

As the tier of government closest to the community, councils are one of the first public sector organisations people turn to when they want something done or they have a complaint. One metropolitan council receives around 650 telephone calls and 200 in person visitors each day.

Given the volume of community contact and the diversity of issues raised, it can be challenging for councils to remain accessible and responsive to their communities. There is a community expectation that councils will deal with complaints about their services quickly and effectively. Having clear policies and processes about how and when a council will handle different types of complaints can assist in managing these expectations.

Complaints are a valuable source of data for councils and a catalyst for service improvements. When a person complains, they are telling the council something that can be used to improve its services. When councils create a positive culture around complaints, these benefits can be realised. On the other hand, if councils regard complaints as a nuisance and a distraction from core business, they remain an untapped resource.

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