Complaints procedures in local government
This study examines the ways in which local authorities in England handle complaints from consumers of their services, and, in particular, looks at the extent of and use of internal complaints procedures. It is argued that complaints procedures are important because they are a part of a citizen's democratic entitlement, and that, as they are concerned with the resolution of the individual trouble case, they are a fit study for lawyers. Justifications are given for locating the study within local government, and the impact of organisational theory in this area is explored. Other methods of dealing with consumer complaints are examined, and it is concluded that, although councillors, the courts and the Local Ombudsman all have a role to play in this area, there is still a need for authorities to have internal complaints procedures. The major part of the study explores in detail the extent of authority-wide internal complaints procedures in local government in England. It justifies the use of these procedures, and compares the experiences of various departments within local government in relation to the use of departmental complaints procedures. In addition, there is more detailed study of social services departments and planning departments, not only in relation to complaints procedures, but also in relation to other practices which may reduce complaints. Authorities, in general, did not have well developed complaints procedures, and there was little evidence of their use as part of the managerial process. There were, however, some authorities with good practices, and there is evidence of change within local government, which is now recognising the necessity of taking complaints seriously.