We are committed to delivering high quality services and we aim to achieve the highest possible standards. However, despite our best intentions and hard work, things can sometimes go wrong.  

What is a complaint?

We define a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction about a council service, whether it is provided by us or a partner or contractor. It affects one person or a group of people and requires a response.

These could be reasons for a complaint:

  • We or our contractors have failed to provide a service to an acceptable standard 
  • There has been a delay in providing a service, or we have not kept you informed of progress when providing a service
  • We have not rectified a problem or acted on a request for a service to be provided
  • Our staff or contractors have behaved in an unfair, discourteous or discriminatory manner 

Complaints about Councillors

If your complaint is about one or more of our elected councillors, please visit our Code of Conduct page which will guide you through the process.  

What is not a complaint?

  • A request for a service (e.g. a missed waste collection or reporting problems like flytipping or litter.) These may subsequently be treated as a complaint if we don’t deal with the original request
  • Requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act or the Data Protection Act
  • Disagreement with a decision where a right of appeal exists, either within the council or externally (e.g. Benefits tribunal, Planning inquiry and Penalty Charge Notices)  
  • An attempt to reopen a previously concluded complaint or to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision
  • Services which are the responsibility of another organisation, e.g. highways, education and adult social care (West Sussex County Council), health matters (NHS), or local bus services (Metrobus)
  • Where we have taken legal action that we has a duty to perform, such as recovery of Council Tax or enforcement action.  
  • A request for compensation only
  • When there is a formal legal claim against the council or legal dispute. 
  • When the matter is being dealt with through our insurers
  • Disagreement with a council policy or legislation decision that we are applying when delivering a service

How to complain

Our aim is to sort as many complaints as possible at the first point of contact. If you are dissatisfied with the service you have received, you should contact the relevant department. They may be able to provide an apology, explanation or other action to resolve the complaint quickly, without having to use the formal complaints procedure. 

However, if your complaint is more complex or serious, can’t be dealt with at the first point of contact and requires further investigation, we will deal with it through our formal complaints process.  

Make a complaint

Please provide as much information as possible about your complaint. Tell us what went wrong, dates applicable to an incident you’re complaining about, supporting documents and how you would like us to resolve the matter.

Stages of complaints

Stage 1

  • Complaints will be acknowledged within two working days
  • The relevant service manager will investigate the complaint and respond with an outcome within 10 working days
  • We will provide progress updates and in the event of a delay, the reason for the delay and when you can expect a response
  • Details of the complaint, outcomes and lessons learned will be logged

Stage 2

If you feel the issues raised in your original complaint have not been addressed at the first stage, a further investigation will be carried out. 

  • Complaints will be acknowledged within two working days
  • The relevant Head of Service will undertake the review and respond within 10 working days
  • We will provide progress updates and in the event of a delay, the reason for the delay and when you can expect a response
  • Details of the complaint, outcomes and lessons learned will be logged

Completion of the Stage 2 review concludes our complaints process.

If you are still dissatisfied

If you have been through both stages of our complaints procedure and are still unhappy with the way we have dealt with the issues you raised, you can ask the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Housing Ombudsman to review your complaint.

The Ombudsman service is free and they will investigate complaints in a fair and independent way. Before you contact them, they will expect you to have given us a chance to deal with your complaint. 

The LGSCO investigates complaints about councils, including housing allocations and planning issues:

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Telephone: 0300 061 0614

The Housing Ombudsman will investigate complaints about housing management, repairs, leaseholder complaints, transfers and mutual exchanges:

Housing Ombudsman
Exchange Tower
Harbour Exchange Square
E14 9GE
Telephone: 0300 1113000

Unreasonably persistent complaints

We value all kinds of feedback. Expressions of dissatisfaction are treated seriously and recognised as a way for us to improve our services. We are also accountable for the proper use of public money and must ensure that that money is spent wisely and achieves value for complainants and the wider public.  

Dealing with a complaint is usually a straightforward process. But in a minority of cases, people pursue their complaints in a way which can either hinder the investigation of their, or other people’s complaint or can cause significant resource issues for the council.

This can happen either while their complaint is being investigated, or once the council has finished dealing with the complaint. We are committed to dealing with all complaints equitably, comprehensively, and in good time. However, where we feel a complainant is behaving unreasonably, we will take appropriate steps to address this. More details are in our Complaints Procedure.