Complaints policy

Approval Date: 13 December 2021
Approved By: Chief Executive Officer
Review Date: 13 December 2025
Responsible Officer: Manager Customer Experience
Version No: 01
Authorising Officer: Chief Executive Officer

Policy

Purpose

This policy has been developed to ensure that customer complaints about the City of Greater Geelong (the City) are managed through an effective and consistent process that meets the requirements of the Local Government Act 2020 (the Act) and the current standard prescribed by the Victorian Ombudsman’s ‘Councils and Complaints – A Good Practice Guide’ 2nd edition 2021.


Scope

This Complaints Policy covers the following:

  • Complaints about decisions or actions of City staff and contractors, and
  • Complaints about decisions made by the elected Council.

This policy does not apply to the following matters or complaints, which are managed through other processes including:

  • First time requests for a service, i.e. “I forgot to put my bin out, can you please come and collect it?” or “can you please fill a pothole in my street?”, or complaints about alleged nuisances, such as “my neighbour is making excessive noise, could you please make it stop?”.
  • Reports of a hazard, i.e. (fallen tree).
  • Complaints about allegations of fraud or corrupt conduct.
  • Complaints that are claims against the City for personal injury or property damage or other loss or damage and allegations of negligence.
  • Complaints about individual councillors which are dealt with in accordance with the Councillor Code of Conduct available at www.geelongaustralia.com.au and also Part 6, Division 5 of the Act.
  • Comments or opinions received via our social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, which have not been registered as a complaint.
  • Complaints about matters where there is a process of review, appeal or objection prescribed by legislation. Complaints of this type usually concern a particular subject matter, such as infringements or planning. The City may exercise discretion to not deal with a complaint which is otherwise subject to statutory review process. In such circumstances we will advise you that your complaint will need to be addressed via the statutory mechanism.

Where a complaint does not fall within the scope of our responsibility, we will endeavour to direct the customer to the appropriate authority or service provider for resolution.


Definitions

City

The City of Greater Geelong organisation, led by the CEO.


Council

The City of Greater Geelong Council comprised of elected councillors and led by the Mayor.


Elt

The Executive Leadership Team of the City, as constituted from time to time.


Complaint

(section 107(3) of the Local Government Act 2020)

For the purposes of the complaints policy, complaint includes the communication, whether orally or in writing, to the Council by a person of their dissatisfaction with—

  1. the quality of an action taken, decision made or service provided by a member of Council staff or a contractor engaged by the Council; or
  2. the delay by a member of Council staff or a contractor engaged by the Council in taking an action, making a decision or providing a service; or
  3. a policy or decision made by a Council or a member of Council staff or a contractor.

Council contractor

Any third-party engaged by Council to carry out functions on the Council’s behalf.


Delegated committee

Committee established under section 63 of the Local Government Act 2020.


Request for service

A request made to Council to provide a service, report damaged or faulty infrastructure, such as a pothole or long grass, or act on an issue, such as excessive noise.


The act

Local Government Act 2020


How to Make a Complaint

The City of Greater Geelong is committed to ensuring our complaints process is accessible to everyone. Tell us if you have specific communication needs or barriers, and we can assist you by:

  • using an assistance service, such as an interpreter or TTY (for free)
  • talking with you if you have trouble reading or writing
  • communicating with another person acting on your behalf if you cannot make the complaint yourself
  • responding to complaints by taking action to resolve complaints as quickly as possible
  • learning from complaints to improve our services.

Any member of the public can make a complaint. Complaints can be made:

Online Submit your complaint via our online complaint form at www.geelongaustralia.com.au
Email Send an email to [email protected]
In person Visit one of our customer service centres:

Geelong – 100 Brougham Street.

Corio – Corio Village Shopping Centre, corner of Bacchus Marsh Road and Purnell Road.

Drysdale – Drysdale Library, 18 Hancock Street.

Complaints may also be reported to any of our customer-facing centres, such as Swim Sport & Leisure centres, and City Early Learning and Care centres.
Phone 03 5272 5272
Mail Address letters to: Complaints Office, City of Greater Geelong, PO Box 104, Geelong VIC 3220
Using an interpreter Contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 or via www.tisnational.gov.au
Deaf or hearing impaired assistance

Contact the National Relay Service and ask them to call 03 5272 5272

Speak and Listen users can call 1300 555 727

TTY users can call 133677

SMS relay users can message 0423 677 767

Note: The area code must be included for each call

Information to include in a complaint

Please provide the following information when making a complaint:

  • Your name and contact details (you can complain anonymously, but this limits the City of Greater Geelong’s ability to respond to you);
  • Identify the action, decision, service or policy you are complaining about, and why you are dissatisfied;
  • Give us relevant details, such as dates, times, location and reference numbers, and any documents that support your complaint;
  • The outcome you are seeking from making your complaint; and
  • Whether you have any communication needs.

Our Complaints Process

This Complaints Policy covers the following:

  • Complaints about decisions or actions of City staff and contractors, and
  • Complaints about decisions made by the elected Council.

Complaints about decisions or actions of city staff and contractors

Complaints will be handled using a four-level approach:

Level 1 – Frontline resolution

Level 2 – Investigation, if required

Level 3 – Internal review

Level 4 – Access to external review


When you complain to us, we will record and acknowledge your complaint within five business days. We will initially access your complaint to decide how we will handle it. This may happen while we are talking with you.

After our initial assessment, we may:

  • take direct action to resolve your complaint
  • commence an investigation of your complaint
  • decline to deal with your complaint if you have right to a statutory review of your complaint (such as a right of appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT).

Level 1 - Frontline resolution

Where possible, we will attempt to resolve your complaint at the time you first contact us. If we decide not to act on your complaint, we will explain why, and where possible, inform you about other options.

Where there is a specific Council policy or procedure dealing with complaints about an issue, such as Council’s Privacy Policy in the case of a privacy complaint, we will deal with your complaint under that policy.

Where there is a review right under legislation, such as the Freedom of Information Act 1982 in the case of some Freedom of Information decisions, we will generally advise you that your complaint will need to be addressed via the statutory mechanism and provide reasons for this advice.

If we cannot resolve your complaint quickly, we will refer it to the relevant team or manager to investigate. We will tell you who you can contact about the investigation.


Level 2 - Investigations process

We aim to complete investigations within 30 calendar days and will tell you if the investigation will take longer. We will update you every 30 calendar days about progress until the investigation is completed. We will inform you of the outcome of your complaint and explain our reasons.

Depending on the nature of your complaint we may:

  • assess the information against relevant legislation, policies and procedures
  • refer to Council documents and records
  • meet affected parties to consider possible solutions
  • advise you in writing of the outcome and our reasons
  • the outcome you are seeking from making your complaint.

Level 3 - How to request an internal review

If you are dissatisfied with our decision and how we responded to your complaint, you can request an internal review in writing. The internal review will be conducted by a Senior Council Officer, usually the Internal Ombudsman who has not had any prior involvement with your complaint. The review will be independent of:

  • the person who took the action; and
  • the person who made the decision; and
  • the person who provided the service.

We will generally inform you of the outcome of the internal review and explain our reasons within 30 calendar days from receipt of your written request. If that is not possible, we will keep you informed and provide reasons for the delay.


Level 4 - How to request an external review

There are external bodies that can deal with different types of complaints about us.

You can request an external review from the following organisations:

Complaint Organisation to contact for external review
Actions or decisions of a Council, Council staff or contractors

Victorian Ombudsman

www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au
Breach of the Local Government Act

Local Government Inspectorate

www.lgi.vic.gov.au
Breach of privacy Complaint about Freedom of Information application

Office of the Victorian Information Commission

www.ovic.vic.gov.au
Corruption or public information disclosures (‘Whistleblower’) complaints

Independent Broad -based Anti -Corruption Commission

www.ibac.vic.gov.au
Discrimination

Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

www.humanrights.vic.gov.au
Council Elections

Victorian Electoral Commission

www.vec.vic.gov.au

Complaints regarding decisions of the elected Council

You may complain to us about decisions made by the democratically elected Council, such as via resolution in a Council or Delegated Committee meeting.

Decisions made at Council meetings are published in the Council minutes and include the precise wording of the Council resolution. The Council meeting agenda includes the Council Officer report relating to the subject. Some reports are confidential in nature and heard in closed Council meetings in accordance with the Act and are not publicly available. Minutes and agendas for the Council meetings are published online at www.geelongaustralia.com.au

In some circumstances, the process of making formal Council decisions involves public consultation. Council will advise if there is a public consultation process where members of the public can participate.

You may complain to us about decisions made by Council by:

  • speaking with or writing to Councillors (Councillor email details are available on the Council website).
  • raising the matter during public question time at a Council meeting.
  • referring your complaint to the Mayor. The complaint will be recorded and the Mayor with administrative assistance from the Mayor and Councillor Support Unit who will inform you of the outcome and provide reasons.

It is important to note that the Mayor cannot change a resolution of the Council; such resolutions can only be changed by another resolution of Council.

If you remain dissatisfied with the response provided by the Mayor, you may escalate your complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman – www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au

We will also advise you of any other options for your right to appeal, such as the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in the case of some planning decisions.


Complaints involving unreasonable complaint conduct

The City requires its staff to be respectful and responsive in all communications with members of the public. We expect the same of you when you communicate with our staff.

Some complaints are difficult to process because of the unreasonable nature of the complainant, or frequency of contact.

Unreasonable behaviour can be grouped into the following categories:

  • unreasonable persistence
  • unreasonable demands
  • lack of cooperation
  • unreasonable behaviour, including arguments and aggression.

We may change the way we communicate with you, limit or restrict access to City staff and buildings if your behaviour or conduct is deemed unreasonable, raises health, safety, resource or equity issues for City staff involved in the complaints process.


How we learn from complaints

Complaints from people who use or who are affected by our services provide us with valuable feedback about how we are performing.

We will regularly analyse our complaint data to identify trends and potential issues that deserve further attention. We will use this information to come up with solutions about how we can improve our services.

We are open and transparent about the complaints we have received, and what we have done to resolve them. We publish our complaint data in our annual report.

The organisation’s Strategy, Commercial and Partnerships Department will report monthly to the Executive Leadership Team on the following:

  • the number of complaints received
  • the service area/type that complaints relate to
  • how long it took us to respond
  • any complaints that have escalated for internal review.

This information will be reported internally on a quarterly basis and also contained Council’s Annual Report.


Privacy

We keep your personal information secure.

We use your information to respond to your complaint and may also analyse the information you have provided for the purpose of improving services that relate to your complaint.

Where we publish complaint data, personal information is removed.

When you complain to us, we ask you to provide and will record:

  • your name and contact details
  • whether you have any communication or assistance needs that can be reasonably accommodated
  • what you are complaining about including any materials that support your complaint
  • what outcome you are seeking.

Roles and Responsibilities

All City staff, Councillors and contractors are responsible for contributing to our complaints process.

Role Key responsibilities
Chief Executive Officer
  • Promoting positive behaviours and practices relating to enabling, responding to and learning from complaints.
  • Supporting service improvements that arise from complaints.
  • Reviewing and publishing complaints data.
Senior Leaders and Managers
  • Recruiting, training and empowering staff to resolve complaints promptly and in accordance with Council’s policies.
  • Managing conflicts of interest in the complaints process.
  • Reporting and identifying improvements from complaint data.
  • Supporting staff who deal with complaints.
  • Assisting with Level 2 complaints where required.
All Council Staff
  • Familiarising themselves with this policy and complaint process.
  • Assisting members of the public to make a complaint.
  • Treating members of the public respectfully and professionally.
  • Referring complaints to the relevant area of Council to be dealt with under this Policy.
Internal Ombudsman
  • Reviewing complaints where an internal review has been requested.
Councillor Conduct Officer
  • Assists in the implementation of, and conduct of, the internal arbitration process of Council.
  • Assists the Principal Councillor Conduct Registrar to perform the functions specified in section 149(1) of the Act; and
  • Assist the Principal Councillor Conduct Registrar in relation to any request for information under section 149(3) of the Act.
Councillors
  • Familiarising themselves with this policy and complaint process.
  • Referring complaints to City staff to be dealt with in accordance with our processes.
Contractors
  • Familiarising themselves with this policy and the City’s complaint process.
  • Cooperating with the City’s complaint handling process.

Advice and assistance

The Responsible Officer for this policy manages the provision of advice to the organisation regarding this policy.

A person who is uncertain how to comply with this policy should seek advice from this person or from their Manager.


Records

The City must retain records associated with this policy and its implementation for at least the period shown below.

Record Retention / Disposal Authority Retention Period Location
Complaint Responsible Department As per PROV

EDRMS

Pathway

Review

In accordance with the Act, Council will review this policy at least once during each 4-year term of the Council.


References

This policy has clear linkages to a range of legislation, Victorian Ombudsman and Council documents including:

  • Local Government Act 2020
  • Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012
  • Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014
  • Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2011
  • Freedom of Information Act 1982
  • Equal Opportunity Act 2010
  • Gender Equity Act 2020
  • Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006


Victorian Ombudsman Publications:





Page last updated: Friday, 29 April 2022

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