THE Surf Coast Shire received 14 complaints in the first six months of this year, but Cr Heather Wellington believes the true figure is probably much higher.
At their meeting last month, councillors considered a report on its performance on handling complaints under the shire’s Complaints Policy, which is prepared for the council twice a year.
For the period between January 1 and June 30, the shire received 14 complaints, with a complaint defined as “an expression of dissatisfaction with either the quality of an action taken, decision made, or service provided by council or its contractor; or a delay or failure in providing a service, taking an action, or making a decision by council or its contractor”.
During this time, officers also recorded 6,654 requests for service from customers through the authority software system, also known as CRMs.
As opposed to a complaint, a request for service is “when a customer wants council to provide something, generally information or a service, or similarly report a fault such as a maintenance request”.
During the meeting, Cr Wellington expressed doubt at the low number of complaints.
“I find it hard to believe we got 14 complaints in six months with the volume of services and actions and things that we do.
“To me, there’s a problem with the way we’re capturing complaints.
“I come from a background in health where every complaint’s an opportunity – I don’t see complaints necessarily as bad things, but I’m sure I’ve had more than 14 complaints myself in six months.”
Cr Goldsworthy agreed, saying he had received far more than 14 complaints and sometimes got that many in the space of a month.
The 14 complaints fell under the four themes of not being happy with works undertaken, not happy with the service, staff behaviour, and concerns with process. Seven were upheld, three were partially upheld, two were not upheld and two are still under investigation.
Eleven complaints were registered with the Victorian Ombudsman’s office (though not necessarily with the council first), but none of those resulted in the Ombudsman issuing a proposal for action to the council for the period.
“Looking at 14 complaints that somehow get distinguished as complaints from probably large numbers of things that are feedback and have lessons to be learnt, we should be capturing that,” Cr Wellington said.