Why complaining to the council can be great

PUBLISHED: 11:07 04 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

Daniel Goodwin, chief executive of St Albans District Council

Daniel Goodwin, chief executive of St Albans District Council

HAVING reason to complain about the council is not normally great news in most people s book. But now complainants are having to get used to the fact that the company they deal with thinks they are great – so good in fact that the firm is called complain

HAVING reason to complain about the council is not normally great news in most people's book.

But now complainants are having to get used to the fact that the company they deal with thinks they are great - so good in fact that the firm is called complaintsrgreat limited.

It emerged this week that since late 2006, all complaints which St Albans District Council cannot easily resolve are referred to the St Albans firm which is based in Holywell Hill.

And having a consultancy dealing with complaints to the council might not be so great for council taxpayers - because they are paying for it.

A council spokesperson said complaintsrgreatlimited was a company with extensive experience in local government complaint management.

She explained that there were three tiers of complaints - the first dealt with at officer level and the second at head of service level. If after that, the complainant was still not satisfied or the council felt the complaint was particularly complicated, it would be referred to complaintsrgreat.

So far 24 complaints have been referred to the company but the council is remaining tight-lipped about the cost of the service because it forms part of a contractual agreement.

Council chief executive Daniel Goodwin said it was important for councils to take all complaints seriously and not be defensive about any made against them. He explained that an independent company was used to provide an unbiased view, work with other organisations and deal with complaints as speedily as possible.

He added: "All stage three complaints are read carefully by me as chief executive and I take personal responsibility for our responses."

Michael Hill, managing director of complaintsRgreat, defended his firm's name, saying: "A complaint is a gift as it gives organisations a chance to hear its customers' views."

He said many local authorities employed a team dedicated to sorting out stage three disputes but it was more cost efficient to outsource to customer service experts like him.

Mr Hill also claimed he had to maintain impartiality to protect his name in the business community.

He added: "Out of the 24 disputes I handled for St Albans last year I found in favour of the complainants around 50 per cent of the time.

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