No complaints from Melton

By Ewen McRae

Melton council is one of just five Melbourne councils which failed to provide complaints data to a recent Victorian ombudsman’s report.

The ombudsman surveyed all local governments to determine how they define complaints and how many complaints they received in the past calendar year, among other things.

Melton council said it was unable to provide complaints data for the report “due to the varying complexity of different categories and subject matters”.

The most recent complaints policy on the council website expired in 2017. Engagement and advocacy manager Sean McManus said the council was working to endorse a new one.

“Our customer service experience is designed to respond to and resolve community inquiries as promptly and efficiently as possible,” Mr McManus said. “We log all requests onto an electronic request system and allocate them to a responsible officer.

“Currently we don’t have a workable framework that can easily extract data with varying complexity across a large range of services and subject matter. Our website outlines how the community can make a complaint and, while we are in the process of updating the Complaints Management Policy, the principles of the most recent policy still apply.”

Moorabool council said it received just 18 complaints in 2018, but 68,300 requests for services. It told the ombudsman it is currently reviewing its complaints procedures.

“Council does not have a Complaints Register, however, following an internal audit that is currently being conducted, this will be rectified and provided for in council’s draft Complaints Policy and Procedure which is currently being reviewed.”

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said councils needed to adopt a broader definition of complaints and not view them so negatively.

“Far too many councils still adopt a narrow definition of complaint or interpret it narrowly in practice,” Ms Glass said. “Not only is it impossible to compare the councils, those who understate the level of public dissatisfaction may well be failing to deal with it.

“Complaints are actually a good thing – they are free feedback. Whether about a missed bin, blocked drain, rates notice or parking ticket, they say something about council services.”