PUBLISHED: 16:28 18 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010
SIR, — Your article Complaining can be great (Herts Advertiser, September 4) rightly pointed out that St Albans taxpayers are paying for the services of complaintsRgreat limited. This is far from the only concern raised by the emergence of the existe
SIR, - Your article "Complaining can be great" (Herts Advertiser, September 4) rightly pointed out that St Albans' taxpayers are paying for the "services" of complaintsRgreat limited. This is far from the only concern raised by the emergence of the existence of this setup.
The district council's PR puffery fails to mention that Daniel Goodwin, the council's chief executive, decides which complaints are referred to complaintsRgreat, even when the complaint in question concerns the failure of the same chief executive to comply with the council's published Corporate Complaints Procedure (this can be found at http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/contact/complaints.htm - interestingly it contains no mention of complaintsRgreat).
The council also fails to mention that the chief executive's brief to complaintsRgreat is confidential. It fails to mention that complaintsRgreat are not required to contact the complainant. It fails to mention that complaintsRgreat's response to the chief executive is confidential.
It appears that everything about complaintsRgreat is confidential, including, for two years, its existence. It may be confidential - it certainly is not confidence-making.
There is a formal process for the council's letting of contracts for external services, such as those provided by complaintsRgreat. This process wouId involve a competitive tender. I've never heard of such a process in this instance. I want to know when or even if this process took place. If it did not, I want to see the resignation, or failing that the dismissal, of the official(s) who placed the contract with complaintsRgreat. Of course, complaintsRgreat must go - the people of St Albans must not pay for a smokescreen for council inadequacies we're already paying for.
My interest in this is both civic and personal. I questioned the failure of the council in a particular matter this year and received a variety of inaccurate and evasive responses. Eventually it became clear that the council would not provide accurate information so I raised a formal Stage 1 complaint. The council failed to comply with its own procedures, so I escalated the complaint to Stage 2, where council again failed to comply. I requested that it be raised to Stage 3, i.e. chief executive, and again the council targets were not met. Instead, I am told, my complaint was referred to complaintsRgreat, but I have no evidence beyond Mr Goodwin's word that this actually happened. Mr Goodwin's response to me was worthless - it contained nothing to suggest that Mr Goodwin had actually treated my complaint as anything other than a minor irritant to be brushed aside. I have never received adequate answers to the questions I raised.
I am perfectly happy to place in the public domain all the records of the correspondence on the matter to which I referred, from initial query to Mr Goodwin's final response.
Liverpool Road, St Albans.