THE South Gippsland Shire copped 148 complaints last year, compared to just nine in Bass Coast.
But the Victorian Ombudsman fears some complaints aren’t being properly classified and thus, not followed up or recorded as official complaints.
The report by the Victorian Ombudsman (VO) on complaints to local councils found inconsistencies in the way complaints are handled, and even how different councils define a complaint.
The Ombudsman was concerned that many councils, including Bass Coast and South Gippsland Shire Councils, currently record complaints that are handled immediately by staff as ‘requests for service’ instead of as complaints, and do not report on or regularly review the outcome of their complaints.
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the report aimed to “check whether councils were making it easy enough for people to complain, whether they were responding to complaints effectively, and learning from complaints for better response in the future”.
“We’ve found for years that one of the main causes for complaints against local councils is in fact the way those councils deal with complaints.
“Complaints that are poorly dealt with can make complainants even more unhappy, while they should be seen as free feedback – a great wat for councils to see how they can improve their service.”
Bass Coast Council have recently reviewed their complaints policy and say that it will be discussed at an upcoming council meeting.
Both councils told the Ombudsman that they aim to acknowledge all complaints within 10 business days and resolve complaints within 28 days from the day of receipt.
Ms Glass said she was pleased the Victorian Government had accepted her four recommendations, which include legislative changes requiring councils to broaden the definition of what is a complaint and to report on their complaint data publicly each year.