www.communities.gov.uk

Complaints about our services

What to do if you would like to complain about our services.

Introduction

This guidance explains what you should do if you are not satisfied with the service you have received from the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is available in various other forms to assist people with disabilities. For further information please contact our Information Rights Branch (IRB) (details below).

Please note that the Department does not consider complaints made against its agencies or a Government Office. They have their own complaint procedures and if you have to make a complaint concerning their services, you must contact them direct. A list of their contact details is also set out below. The Department only becomes involved in complaints against these bodies if the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) decides to investigate the complaint.

Helping us to put things right

The Department is committed to delivering efficient, quality public services. We aim to provide prompt, courteous, helpful, open and informative information in response to every approach made by a member of the public.

We are always keen to hear the views of our customers, particularly the general public, about our performance. We recognise that things can occasionally go wrong and the standard of service that we have set ourselves suffers as a consequence. We are especially keen to hear about such instances since they provide us with an opportunity to learn from our mistakes.

Types of complaint handled

Handling your complaints quickly, fairly and helpfully is a key part of our approach to service delivery. However, we are unable to deal with every instance of dissatisfaction. Examples of the complaints we can investigate are:

  • dissatisfaction with the way in which we responded to an enquiry or the time that we took to respond
  • a perceived injustice because of alleged maladministration on our part
  • a denial of a request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act - see the FOI complaints procedure for guidance.

We cannot, however, treat your objections to the Government's policies as complaints under these procedures or the administrative actions of bodies other than the Department (we cannot for example, deal with complaints you may have regarding a local authority). We will record the objections to the Government's policies we receive and make sure that they reach the relevant policy makers and Ministers. Complaints against other bodies must be made directly to them.

The aim of these procedures

If the Department fails to provide the quality of service you expect, we will:

  • ensure that making a complaint is as easy as possible
  • treat the matter seriously from the outset, whether you contact us by telephone, letter, fax or email
  • deal with it promptly, politely and, if possible, informally
  • include in our response an apology accepting mistakes have been made, an explanation for the mistake and the way in which we intend to improve our performance in future
  • publish information on the complaints we receive - for example in the Department's Annual Report.

About the procedures

The Department's complaints procedure is in three stages that are designed to ensure that, if you are not happy with the initial response we give you (in stage one), you can ask more senior staff in the policy or service delivery division concerned to consider the issue again (stage two). If you are still not satisfied, the Department has an entirely separate section dealing with complaints that will review the case (stage three) and produce a final response to your complaint.

Ultimately, if you remain dissatisfied with the Department's final response, you may ask your local MP to take your complaint to the PHSO.

At each stage, the people whom you contact will need to establish that your complaint has been be considered under the earlier stages. As a general rule, they will seek this confirmation before taking on the complaint.

Stage one - Express your dissatisfaction informally

If you feel dissatisfied with a service you have received from the Department, you should first explain your complaint directly and informally to the person you have been in contact with. If you have not already been in contact with someone or do not know whom to contact about your complaint, you should contact the Information Rights Branch (IRB) at the following address:

Information Rights Branch
Department for Communities and Local Government
Information Centre, Ground Floor
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London
SW1E 5DU

Tel: 0303 444 0000 (08:30-17:30 Mon-Fri)
Email: foirequests@communities.gsi.gov.uk

We describe this as an informal stage because it is carried out promptly with minimal record keeping, which means it can be carried out quickly.

You can express your dissatisfaction by letter, fax, email or telephone. However, if you choose to telephone, your contact will ask for a short period - five working days at most - to consider the issue. When you make contact under these procedures, please let us know how you would prefer to receive a response and provide the relevant contact details.

When the Department has considered your issue, your initial contact will provide you an informal response. They will explain how and why they have reached their conclusions. If they do not accept the complaint, they will explain their reasons, and advise you what to do next if you are still not satisfied. They will give you the name and contact details of their own line manager for you to formally pursue your complaint under stage two of these procedures.

Stage two - Making a formal complaint

You should write to your initial contact's immediate line manager clearly setting out your complaint in detail making it clear that you want it treated as a formal complaint under Stage Two of the Department's complaint procedures.

If you are unclear as to the line manager's identity please contact IRB.

You may write via e-mail or fax, or you may telephone the manager concerned. However, we are obliged record all formal complaints and we will need to agree a detailed, written statement of your complaint with you before embarking on a formal investigation.

The person who receives your complaint under stage two will:

  • make sure that the complaint is clear
  • check that the stage one procedure has been completed
  • review, the response you received to your initial approach with the person involved
  • consider the issues afresh
  • consult internal lawyers if there any doubts about our statutory powers relevant to the issues
  • arrive at their own decision in the light of these considerations
  • write to you setting out their findings.

Our target for replying to formal complaints at this stage of the procedure is 15 working days from the date of receipt. If we cannot provide you with a full reply within this time, we will forward you an interim response, telling you what is being done to deal with your complaint, and when you can expect the full reply.

Stage three  - The Complaints Office

If you are not satisfied with the response you received under stage two, you should write to the Department for Communities and Local Government Complaints Officer, c/o IRB (you may also telephone them but they will require written confirmation of the complaint before starting their investigation). The Complaint Officer is independent from all other divisions in the Department and will consider the matter for entirely afresh. The Complaints Officer will ask the responsible Branch Head or Deputy Director to review the considerations already given to the matter, and to reconsider them.

The Complaints Officer aims to respond fully to Stage Three complaints within 20 working days. If this is not possible, you will be informed in writing of how your complaint is progressing and a proposed date for the full reply. This will normally be the Department's final response to you under these procedures.

Stage four - Review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

If you still remain unhappy with the Department's final response, you can ask your MP to request that the independent PHSO conducts a review of the handling of your complaint.

Further information about the independent review arrangements may be obtained from the Ombudsman's office at the following address:

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London
SW1P 4QP

Complaints Helpline Tel: 0345 015 4033
Fax: 0300 061 4000
Email: phso.enquiries@ombudsman.org.uk
Fax: 020 7217 4160
Website: www.ombudsman.org.uk (external link)

If the Ombudsman is satisfied that your complaint has been dealt with fairly, they will close your case and, normally, the Department will not respond to any further approaches about the matter. If the Ombudsman finds that your complaint is justified, they can recommend that the Department should provide a remedy.

Complaints concerning Executive Agencies

If your complaint relates to a service provided by one of the Department's Executive Agencies, you should contact them directly. You can find contact details on their websites using the links below.

The Planning Inspectorate
www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk

The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre
www.qeiicc.co.uk

The Fire Service College
www.fireservicecollege.ac.uk

Have your say

My favourites