Complaints, Concerns, Comments and Compliments

(The 4Cs)

 Corporate Policy and Procedures


Current Document Status




Approving body

Audit and Governance Committee




17th November 2020

Date of formal approval






Lorraine Lunt/ Janie Berry  

Review date




Version History





May 2020


Lorraine Lunt

First draft for comment – JB and CM

August 2020


Lorraine Lunt

Second draft for comment – CM and LL

August 2020


Lorraine Lunt

Third draft for comment – GRAG and CCS DMT

September 2020


Lorraine Lunt

Updated from comments / feedback received from HR, internal audit/Veritau (general policy good practice guidance and also considered the policy against the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s (LGSCO) ‘Guidance on Running a Complaints System’ and information on ISO 10002:2018 - Quality management — Customer satisfaction — Guidelines for Complaints Handling in Organizations

October 2020

V0.5 & v0.6 & v0.7

Lorraine Lunt

Further comments and feedback

Inserted team name


 November 2020


Lorraine Lunt

Draft flow charts

Document retention


Document retention period



For information


Where there are parts highlighted in yellow, these are to be added when the document is approved or they are for up to date information eg website links to be added ahead of any implementation.



CONTENTS – to be inserted

































APPENDICES – to be inserted
























City Of York Council (“the council” ) has produced this revised corporate procedure for dealing with comments, compliments, concerns and complaints (“the 4Cs”) and this document sets out the procedure for dealing with them and provides some of the tools to help with this work. 


We expect all colleagues at the council to follow this approach and we hope you will see the 4Cs, both positive and negative, as an opportunity for us to improve our services.


Why have a policy and procedure?


The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) sets out the reason for having a procedure and also provides “Guidance on running a complaints system” that we have used for this policy and procedure.


A good …system is an opportunity for a council to show that it wants to be open and honest; that it cares about providing a good service; and that it genuinely values feedback on whether there are any problems which need attention.   So colleagues who handle complaints need to be positive, understanding, open-minded and helpful; and they should let it be seen that the council takes complaints seriously and deals with them sympathetically.”


We’re aiming to achieve this with our corporate policy and procedure.


It’s important that colleagues implementing this corporate policy and procedure apply them in the spirit in which they are intended, and are informed by the overall customer focused approach at the council.  This corporate policy and procedure is intended to help us to address issues to reach a satisfactory outcome and continuously improve our services.


The aim of this procedure is to ensure that the 4Cs are welcomed, responded to and learned from, according to the values of the council.


This policy and procedure is for customers who live, work, visit or travel within the City of York and who receive one of our services (directly or through another organisation).


Any of the 4Cs can be made by phone, email, letter, fax, social media, online, or in person at a council building or office.


There is a separate system for handling enquiries from Councillors.  Guidance on this is available on the council’s website and intranet – to insert links to customer services process


Section 1: What is a COMPLAINT, CONCERN, COmment or COMPLIMENT?


A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction where a response is required, however made, which may include any of the following:


·        Our quality of service

·        Our timeliness of service

·        Our failure to respond to a previous complaint.


We will not treat the following as a complaint:


·        A request for a service that is made for the first time (sometimes called a missed service request or single service failure) or an issue that the council could not reasonably have been expected to have been aware of before. For example, impacts of a decision on an individual, being reported for the first time or a customer reports that a streetlight is not working.  If we then fail to resolve the issues to the customer’s satisfaction, the issues will then be defined and treated as a complaint.


·        A request for information or an explanation of a council policy or practice


·        A complaint that has already been considered through another appropriate route such as an insurance claim, a court or tribunal, or a complaint where there is another more appropriate route of independent scrutiny.


·        Any issue which has separate provision for or specific procedures governing complaints and appeals (whether this be statutory or not). This includes but is not limited to the following issues:


§  Appeals against refusal of planning permission or against conditions placed on a grant of planning permission.

§  A complaint about social care services (children and adults).

§  A school admission or exclusion appeal.

§  A complaint about a school.

§  A complaint from a council employee about an employment matter.

§  A complaint about a council employee, contractor or partner’s conduct or behaviour

§  A complaint about councillor’s or parish councillor’s conduct

§  External complaints about Recruitment and Selection

§  An appeal against the issue of a penalty charge notice by the parking enforcement team and the recovery process which follows.

§  Dispute a fixed penalty for environmental crimes (including dog-fouling).

§  Dispute a penalty charge notice for Bus Lane Contravention.

§  Any appeal against the exercise of a police power.

§  A complaint about the refusal of disabled badges for parking exemption.

§  A complaint about the independent Rent Officer. 

§  To report Anti-Social Behaviour.

§  Appeals regarding Resident Parking Permits


·        Where the circumstances of a complaint have been known for more than 12 months and have not been raised during that time to the council.  However the information governance, complaints and feedback team (IGCFteam) will assess :-


§  Whether the complaint could have been made sooner

§  Whether there is sufficient knowledge and/or evidence still available to be able to complete an investigation and reach a conclusion

§  Whether there is a realistic ability to provide an appropriate resolution


Where this is not the case, the complainant will be informed and advised where appropriate of other routes for progressing their concerns.


·        Issues which are outside the responsibility of the council.


A concern has the same definition as a complaint, but enables people who are uncomfortable with or do not want to use the term complaint to express their concerns to the authority and have them responded to. The aim is to ensure that the council can monitor the quality of service provision and learn lessons from negative feedback, where the customer does not want to make a complaint.


A comment is an idea for making changes/improvements to any part of our service. Comments can be statements that express:


·        Facts

·        Personal opinions

·        Beliefs


A compliment is any expression of satisfaction, pleasure or gratitude about the quality of service provided or about staff, contractors or other providers delivering a service on the council’s behalf.


We will provide the customer with contact details if their contact falls into one of the above categories.  See **


Customers may often make an observation on our service without explicitly defining their remarks or concerns as one of the 4Cs.  Remarks and concerns should not be overlooked because they do not use our wording and categories.  However, nothing in this policy and procedures should prevent staff from continuing to work with customers to provide excellent customer service and respond to their queries, suggestions and resolve any difficulties before they become complaints.


If a customer raises the issue verbally, and you’re not certain how their remark should be treated, please contact the IGCFteam.  If you receive written correspondence and aren’t sure how to treat it, and you are not able to check with the customer, please raise it with the IGCFteam 


If a customer wishes to raise any of the 4Cs, it must be sent to the IGCFteam to record and address as set out in this procedure.  Any of the 4Cs can be made verbally and do not necessarily need to be in writing.



SECTION 2: Who ‘owns’ a complaint, concern, comment or compliment?


Ownership is about taking responsibility for a complaint.  If you’ve received a complaint and don’t know who ‘owns’ it, the answer is that you do until it has been successfully handed over to the IGCFteam.   


4Cs can be accepted verbally.  Customers making any of the 4Cs in person or by phone must not be told that they have to write in or complete a form.  However you can use the form on the council website – insert link to capture all the information needed and send it onto the IGCFteam.


If a customer makes you aware of any of the 4Cs verbally and you can’t access the website form, note down their comments:


·        Tell the customer your name and provide the contact details for IGCFteam

·        Acknowledge the concerns the customer has and how they feel without agreeing with or challenging their views

·        Identify what the problem is

·        Identify what outcome the customer would like to see – but do not commit the council to achieving it at this stage;

·        Tell the customer that you will pass on the details to the IGCFteam and they will get back to you.


Once you’ve finished the conversation pass the information onto the IGCFteam who will email/contact the customer to acknowledge receipt of their 4C where appropriate.  If you receive a written 4C then send it to the IGCFteam at as soon as possible.





Where any of the 4Cs has been made on a person’s behalf by their representative, then the IGCFteam will consider whether the individual has appropriate authority and independence to act on the person’s behalf.  If written consent is required the IGCFteam will assist with this. When either appropriate authority or consent cannot be provided, the IGCFteam will assess the most appropriate way to progress the issues being raised and will discuss this with relevant staff and managers where required.


Where timescales are noted in terms of days, these are working days unless otherwise stated; timescales noted on the flowcharts are the latest dates to meet the target timescales and ideally the tasks should be completed before the deadlines given.

All progress or correspondence, either internal or external, will be recorded on the IGCFteam monitoring system.


All correspondence relating to a specific complaint should include the monitoring system reference, so developments can be noted down against the customer reference details.


Where learning or service improvements are identified, the IFCFteam will request evidence these have been implemented or completed.


Ownership of multiple complaints See ***


When contact about the same issue from the same customer is received through more than one route, it will be logged on the IGCFteam monitoring system, allocated for investigation and a single response will be provided by the IGCFteam, in accordance with these procedures, advising that they will be providing a single council response on behalf of all recipients at the council.


SECTION 4: How we respond to compliments


It’s important we understand when customers think we get things right.  This allows colleagues to know they’re appreciated and ensures all parts of the council can learn from the areas identified for good practice. 


When we receive compliments, including ‘thank you’ cards, we will only contact the customer to thank them within 10 working days if they have requested that we do so.   The IGCFteam will notify any council colleague or service to which the compliment refers within 20 working days. We will use compliments to maintain or improve our standard of service as well understand what customers value about the services the council provides.


Commendations are compliments awarded to staff for work above and beyond their usual duties and responsibilities. This may come to the attention of the council through a letter or comment from a customer or member of the public, or may be brought to the attention of a senior manager through a team leader or line manager.


A commendation for example may be achieved by a member of staff completing a piece of work which would not normally be within their remit or grade. This may be to resolve a problem quickly, or to support colleagues when a team is short staffed or has a heavy work load.  This will not normally be for additional work that has been taken on where the member of staff has received additional money for this.


Commendations should be brought to the attention of the IGCFteam as soon as possible and where there is any doubt about whether this should be logged as a commendation or a compliment, the IGCFteam will discuss this with the appropriate Corporate Director/Director/Assistant Director


Where it is agreed that a commendation for a member of staff is appropriate, the Corporate Director/Director/Assistant Director will, where appropriate, write to the customer or member of public and thank them for bringing this to their attention and will write to the member of staff thanking them for their work.


The IGCFteam will:


·        Make a record of the commendation including copies of letters

·        Send a note about the commendation and copies of letters to human resources to be kept on the member of staff’s personal file.










SECTION 5: How we respond to comments


When we receive a comment, the IGCFteam will contact the customer to thank them within 10 working days if they have requested that we do so and pass onto the relevant manager/officer.  If it is a suggestion to improve what we do, the relevant manager will let them know within 20 working days how we’ll put the suggestion into practice, or explain why we can’t.





SECTION 6: How we respond to complaints and concerns


We have a two grade approach to address complaints.  This is set out below and on the following flow charts.  The LGSCO in its “Guidance on running a complaints system” says


“We believe that two stages will normally be appropriate to deal with most complaints”


Our target is to carry out all pending actions relating to complaints, as soon as possible.  Deadlines specified in this procedure are the latest date by which action should occur. 


At any grade, if we agree with the complaint, we will do one or more of the following:

·        Apologise and explain what went wrong;

·        Arrange for the customer to receive the service they were entitled to receive, as far as possible;

·        Change our process, where relevant, so that the mistake is not repeated;

·        Provide the appropriate and proportionate outcomes based on the LGSCO guidance


If the complaint is about


·        a policy that cannot be changed or

·        it is considered that the council has had sufficient opportunities to resolve the issues and a further investigation would not lead to a significantly different outcome, or

·        the outcomes wanted cannot be achieved through this policy and procedures


then the council reserves the right not to escalate the complaint to grade 2.  We will advise the customer of this decision within 10 working days including their right to contact the relevant Ombudsman or where appropriate to seek their own legal advice.   


Grade 1 and Grade 2 – what we will do


A complaint may be dealt with at either Grade 1 or Grade 2 following an assessment by the IGCFteam:-


·        If the customer is unhappy with the outcome of their complaint at Grade 1

·        If there has been an unreasonable delay at Grade 1 or

·        It is assessed that it is appropriate to go to Grade 2 due the nature and complexity of the issues being raised.


The IGCFteam will assess the nature and complexity of the complaint and allocate it to be dealt with by an adviser in the IGCFteam who provide an independent to service, and impartial investigation role.


As soon as possible and at the latest within 5 working days of receipt, we will let the customer know in their preferred method of communication, that we have registered their complaint and will provide the outcome of the assessment by the IGCFteam on how their complaint will be dealt with.  We will also provide the name, phone number and position of the person who is dealing with the complaint and the reference number.


It will usually be appropriate to speak to the complainant directly to ensure that their experiences, outcomes wanted and any background information, is clearly understood.  We may offer to meet the customer by appointment to try and resolve their complaint. 


The IGCFteam will write a report of their investigation findings including the decision on the complaint (upheld, partially upheld, not upheld or unproven) along with any recommendations, actions or areas for improvement for the service area(s).  This will be sent to the relevant manager in the service area to consider the findings and outcomes,  as well as any recommendations, actions or areas for improvements.


If the service area agrees with the report recommendations, actions or areas for improvement, it will then be sent to the customer, stating that the recommendations, actions or areas for improvement have been agreed and the timescales for them.


If the service area disagrees with the report recommendations, actions or areas for improvement, the report will be sent to the customer stating that the recommendations, actions or areas for improvement have been sent to the relevant manager who will respond to the customer further with their decisions within the 10 working days


The IGCFteam will monitor the progress of any recommendations, actions or areas for improvement with the service area(s) and report on this through the appropriate council routes including to relevant Committees.


If the customer remains unhappy with our response, or if they feel the delay in receiving a full response is unreasonable they will be advised that they can go to the relevant Ombudsman and given the contact details for this.



Grade 1 – timescale


The investigation report will be provided to the customer within 20 working days of us receiving the request. If we are unable to meet this timescale, the adviser in the IGCFteam will explain why there is a delay and advise the customer when they can expect a full response. 


Grade 2 – timescale


The investigation report will be provided to the customer within 30 working days of us receiving the request.  If we are unable to meet this timescale, we will contact the customer and advise them when they can expect a full response. This will be no longer than 3 calendar months.





SECTION 7: How we will assess grade of complaint and escalation


Assessment of the complaint Grade will be completed by the IGCFteam taking account of the issues raised and the following factors:


·        severity

·        complexity

·        risk to the customer and other customers

·        risk to the council

·        history of similar complaints

·        likelihood of future similar complaints.


Other considerations will include:


·        the outcomes wanted to resolve the complaint,

·        who is best placed to effectively respond to the complaint

·        the complainant’s views of how the complaint should be dealt with


An escalation of a Grade 1 complaint to Grade 2 will be where the complainant is dissatisfied with the findings of Grade 1, or where it is assessed as being appropriate to be considered and responded to at Grade 2, due to issues including the severity, complexity or risk. 


The assessment and escalation is based on best practice, guidance and other complaints legislation and a brief guide to the steps is set out below.


Step 1: Assess the seriousness





Unsatisfactory service or experience not directly related to care. No impact or risk to provision of care.


Unsatisfactory service or experience related to care, usually a single resolvable issue. Minimal impact and relative minimal risk to the provision of care or the service. No real risk of litigation.


Service or experience below reasonable expectations in several ways, but not causing lasting problems. Has potential to impact on service provision. Some potential for litigation.


Significant issues regarding standards, quality of care and safeguarding of or denial of rights. Complaints with clear quality assurance or risk management issues that may cause lasting problems for the organisation, and so require investigation. Possibility of litigation and adverse local publicity.


Serious issues that may cause long-term damage, such as grossly substandard care, professional misconduct or death. Will require immediate and in-depth investigation. May involve serious safety issues. A high probability of litigation and strong possibility of adverse national publicity.


Step 2: Determine how likely the issue is to recur





Isolated or ‘one off’ – slight or vague connection to service provision.


Rare – unusual but may have happened before.


Happens from time to time – not frequently or regularly.


Will probably occur several times a year.

Almost certain

Recurring and frequent, predictable.


Step 3: Categorise the risk



Likelihood of recurrence






Almost Certain





































Step 4: Determine the Grade or escalation


Grade 1

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 2





Section 8: The relevant Ombudsmen e.g. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman Service


If, having followed this procedure, the customer is still not happy with how their complaint has been dealt with; they may have the right to have the matter reviewed by relevant Ombudsman e.g. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).


The exact nature of an investigation by the LGSCO or the HOS will depend on the circumstances of the complaint but the following gives some guidance as to what may happen.


During the investigation, an investigator, acting on behalf of the Ombudsman, will usually examine our records.  They will at times want to talk to the customer, colleagues, or Councillors who were involved with the complaint or who can explain the council’s policies and procedures.  The LGSCO and HOS have powers similar to those of the High Courts to obtain evidence.


Points to note are:


·        During an interview a person being interviewed can have someone present to support them but not to give evidence;

·        The files will be available so it is a good idea for colleagues to refresh their memory before the interview;

·        Any notes made at the time of the events under investigation are likely to be required by the Ombudsman’s investigator;

·        Interviews are formal and on the record – anything said may be noted by the investigator and passed to the Ombudsman; and

·        Interviews are in private.  Colleagues should not talk about the complaint or the interview except in consideration of questions or recommendations made by the Ombudsman, until a final report has been issued by the Ombudsman.


It’s important that full notes and records are kept as complaints progress so that we can demonstrate that the proper procedure has been consistently and fairly applied.


The IGCFtam will provide the primary point of contact for the LGSCO and HOS and will work with relevant managers etc. to gather information requested.  Where appropriate, statements from the council to an Ombudsman will be shared with managers prior to submission.  The IGCFteam will alert the relevant Corporate Director of any investigation as soon as information is received by the council.


**insert parliamentary /health service ombudsman details***





SECTION 9: How the 4Cs will improve and change services


All of the 4Cs from customers provide invaluable feedback on our services.  The IGCFteam will ensure that the 4Cs provide a positive influence on performance by linking the results of the analysis of 4Cs to service delivery.  


The IGCFteam will keep information on the 4Cs and will report this information as required.  These will show:


·        the type of 4Cs /volume/by service area;

·        what the 4Cs are about (e.g. delay in service, poor service, colleagues, etc.);

·        quality of response;

·        recommendations for any improvements to service delivery based on the trends in 4Cs


An annual report to the relevant Committee(s) will include examples of learning and improvements as a result of the 4Cs. See Appendix ***










This section sets out the different ways that the council will respond to a complaint.


A complaint may be


·        upheld in full,

·        partially upheld,

·        not upheld, or

·        not proven  


It is important that the complainant is explicitly informed of the outcome of each element of their complaint and the reasons for that outcome.


Where complaints are upheld or upheld in part, the resolution and remedy needs to be appropriate to the complaint.  During the process of investigating, we will have identified with the customer how they would like things put right and alongside the Ombudsman’s remedies guidance, we will identify the appropriate resolution and remedies.


Resolution and remedies may include one or more of the following:


·        An apology;

·        An explanation as to what went wrong, of policy or procedures, of the way we have handled the matter or of remedial action;

·        A commitment to review processes to avoid the same thing happening again. This may include a change in working practices or a review of policy or procedures;

·        Feedback to the customer on how their complaint has been used to improve/change future service; or

·        Appropriate actions, good will gesture or recompense based on the Ombudsman’s remedies guidance.  Where recompensing for out of pocket expenses, we will require evidence of these.  See  Appendix ***


Saying we are sorry


Often, all that is needed is a timely and genuine apology with clear actions about how we will avoid similar problems in future.  Most people accept that occasionally mistakes will be made.  What often annoys them, is the failure to acknowledge that something has gone wrong, or to treat them as an individual.



Even if a complaint has not been upheld, it is often appropriate to acknowledge their experiences e.g.


“I am sorry that you are unhappy about [add summary of complaint]. Colleagues at City Of York Council work hard to deliver a good service and I apologise that on this occasion we have not met with your expectations.”



SECTION 11: Improving our service


If we are able to, we should give an assurance that the situation which gave rise to the complaint will not be repeated.  It may be possible to change practices, systems or procedures to prevent a recurrence of an error.  Without going into complexities, we should let the customer know of the action taken and the timescale for this.  A demonstration that something has happened as a result of the complaint may win support and will also help us to improve our service.


Customer feedback, not just that coming through this policy and procedure, should be used to identify areas for improvement in services and be used for continuous improvement.






If the circumstances could give rise to a claim for damages for personal injury or for financial loss, the Corporate Finance and Commercial Procurement Manager, who is responsible for Insurance and Risk Management, should be informed of the details at the earliest opportunity.  To avoid prejudicing the council’s position, no correspondence relating to the claim should be sent other than to acknowledge the correspondence and inform the individual of what we are doing.  


If there are issues raised in addition to the compensation claim which need to be addressed under the council’s 4Cs procedure, the IGCFteam will work closely with the Corporate Finance and Commercial Procurement Manager, to ensure there is no prejudice to the claim investigation.


Ex Gratia Payments/Good will


There may be times when it is appropriate to make a payment, without admitting liability, for example in acknowledgement of poor customer service, which hasn’t resulted in a loss for the person concerned.  In such circumstances it may be appropriate to make an ex-gratia / good will payment.


Important considerations when making such a payment:


·        What will be the impact of making such a payment in terms of reputation, precedent and potential future claims?

·        What is an appropriate level and form of any such payment? This should balance the severity of any failure of the council with the need to justify the cost to the public purse.

·        Any letter should make it clear that the payment is ex-gratia: that it is done without recognition of any legal need to make the payment.   Advice can be sought from the IGCFteam and the Insurance and Risk Management Team, if there is any concern.

·        Any such payment should generally be in the form of a one-off payment or gift voucher.  It should not take the form of reducing outstanding bills that an individual has with the council, as this can lead to processing difficulties which may exacerbate the original issue.

·        Any such payment should be approved by the appropriate budget manager, who should ensure the payment can be made within their overall budget. They should satisfy themselves that such a payment represents value for money for the council and can justify the reason for making it.

·        Any payments made will be recorded on the IGCFteam monitoring system, including a summary of key learning and issues raised; value for money reasons for making the payment; the amount paid and what budget code it was charged to.


When compensation is not appropriate


There may be times when a complainant has specifically requested compensation but it is not possible or appropriate for the council to pay it.


When considering financial remedies it is important to note that the council receives and is responsible for public money and as such must make sure that all funds are used appropriately.   Financial remedies must only be considered where another alternative is not available or appropriate.  Where recompensing for out of pocket expenses, we will require evidence of these.







The LGSCO’s guidance states that “unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants are those complainants who, because of the nature or frequency of their contacts with an organisation, hinder the organisation’s consideration of their or other people’s, complaints”.


This section of the corporate policy and procedure is designed to assist the council to deal with complainants, when nothing further can reasonably be done to rectify a real or perceived problem,  and should be implemented only in exceptional circumstances. 


Whilst the council is committed to considering all complaints and learning lessons to improve services, it recognises that in doing this, it will on occasions come into contact with people who may be both angry and distressed, and who may have difficulties with communication, disabilities or illnesses which make their contact with the council at these times persistent, strained or even hostile.


It is important at these times to consider the reasons for this behaviour and to ensure that support is available to both the complainant and staff, to enable the complaint to be heard and dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.


Some examples of unreasonable and unreasonably persistent behaviours are:


·        Repeatedly making the same complaint with minor differences or insisting the differences make it a “new” complaint.

·        Refusing to accept the decision; repeatedly arguing points with no new evidence

·        Changing aspects or the basis of the complaint or continues to add to the complaint, hindering the investigation.

·        Regularly breaks appointments or will not allow appointments with staff which would progress the complaints process.

·        Repeated contact with staff in different departments, using different routes, e.g. letters, faxes, phone calls, MP, councillor and media enquiries.   This can include pursuing parallel complaints on the same issue with a variety of organisations.

·        Contact is frequent, lengthy, complicated and stressful for staff and repeats the same themes.   This includes making excessive demands on the time and resources of staff with lengthy phone calls, emails to numerous council staff, or detailed letters every few days, and expecting immediate responses or raising numerous, detailed but unimportant questions; insisting they are all answered

·        Making unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues, and seeking to have them replaced

·        Refusing to co-operate with the complaints investigation process or to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of the corporate complaints procedure.

·        Insisting on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the relevant procedure or with good practice

·        Refusing to specify the grounds of a complaint, despite offers of assistance

·        Not allowing the complaint to progress to the next stage, but continues to express dissatisfaction

·        Introducing trivial or irrelevant new information at a later stage

·        Being abusive, making inappropriate or personal comments or threats, or uses aggressive behaviour including shouting or swearing at staff.

·        Denying or changing statements he or she made at an earlier stage or submitting falsified documents from themselves or others

·        Covertly recording meetings and conversations


Where unreasonable or unreasonably persistent types of behaviour are present, the IGCFteam will attempt to identify reasons for this and strategies to resolve any difficulties, by talking to the person and members of staff and may choose to hold a planning meeting or complete a risk assessment.


If appropriate and not already in place, the possibility of an advocate or other support will be considered to enable the person to express and pursue their complaint and understand what action is being taken.


Where appropriate the IGCFteam will write to the person to explain:


·        what behaviour they are using which is unreasonable or unreasonably persistent

·        Advise the person of strategies to reduce the unreasonable or unreasonably persistent behaviour so that the complaint can be pursued.  Examples may be :

§  Requesting they provide clarification of the complaint and their desired outcomes.

§  Reminding them that the council cannot enter into discussions about outcomes which have already been reached, unless they allow this to be moved to the next stage.

§  Requesting that they do not use inappropriate or abusive comments, shout or swear at staff, make threats, or use aggressive behaviour.

§  Agreeing times and frequency of contact.

§  Who to contact including offering to work with an advocate or support person where appropriate

§  Stopping contact with the customer either in person, by phone, by fax, by letter or any combination of these, provided that one form of contact is maintained. 

§  temporarily suspend all contact with the complainant or investigation of a complaint whilst seeking legal advice or guidance;



If the unreasonable or unreasonably persistent behaviour continues, it may become necessary for the council to stop the investigation of the complaint and stop their contact with the person about it.   This decision will be made in consultation with senior managers, where required, by the IGCFteam who must be satisfied that:


·        the rest of the corporate policy and procedure has been followed as far as is possible; and

·        no material element of a complaint has been overlooked or inadequately addressed

·        status as a former unreasonable or unreasonably persistent complainant does not prejudice the investigation of a new, valid complaint

·        that previous attempts at resolving matters have failed

·        That this approach does not present an unacceptable level of risk for the person or the council.


When this decision has been reached, the IGCFteam will contact (where the risk assessment allows) the person to confirm this and will include any relevant points from the below list:


·        An explanation of the reasons for this decision and where appropriate, when it will be reviewed.

·        That further contacts about the complaint, will not be acknowledged or answered;

·        Their right to contact the Ombudsman and that any new complaints will be investigated through the normal procedure.


The IGCFteam will also communicate this decision and steps taken to relevant staff and managers.


A review of this decision must be held at least 12 months after the initial decision and depending on the circumstances, this may be extended.


Where threats or aggressive behaviour is likely to put staff at serious risk, contact will be withdrawn immediately without notification.   The IGCFteam will complete the appropriate report using the health and safety incident reporting portal and in conjunction with senior managers, will identify if contact can continue and how this should be done.  In these cases the option of contacting the Police and or taking legal action should always be considered.

Withdrawing ‘unreasonable or unreasonably persistent’ status

Having deemed a customer to be unreasonable or unreasonably persistent, this status may be withdrawn by the IGCFteam if for example, the customer demonstrates a more reasonable approach or if they later submit a further, new complaint for which the normal complaints procedure would appear to be appropriate.

The IGCFteam will advise the customer of the withdrawal of the unreasonable or unreasonably persistent status.




The monitoring system is on the council’s secure network and is used to register, monitor and record the 4Cs.  It is a tool for the IGCFteam to ensure consistency of approach in the 4Cs process throughout the organisation and ensure compliance with this corporate policy and procedure.



The IGCFteam will be responsible for reports to the appropriate forum on a regular basis.  These will include to management teams and Committees.  Reports will include recommendations for service/ policy improvements if required, based on the analysis of data obtained from the monitoring system. The following information should be included:

Quantity and Quality


·        Number of “4Cs”received

·        Percentage of “4Cs” responses provided within timescales

·        Number of complaints dealt with at each level/stage/grade

·        Percentage of complaints answered in time at each level/stage/grade

·        Number of Ombudsman complaints

·        Number of Ombudsman decisions by type


Type of “4Cs”


·        “4Cs” by service

·        Nature of concerns, compliments and comments received

·        Nature of Complaints for example: delay/ poor service/ no service




·        Annual reports will be published to let customers and Councillors know how the council is performing, what lessons we have learned and how 4Cs have been used to improve what we do, including the type of changes made as a result of 4Cs.






The IGCFteam will assess, investigate and respond to complaints at grade 1 and a different member of the IGCFteam will do grade 2. 


The IGCFteam are also responsible for:


·        coordinating and registering 4Cs including MPs Enquiries

·        determining, assessing and allocating grade

·        providing the independent to service and impartial investigations into complaints at both grades.

·        Sampling the 4Cs responses for quality against agreed markers – ‘dip’ testing

·        Co-coordinating, processing and responding to Ombudsman enquiries

·        Acting to support the 4Cs process

·        Providing training and support to colleagues

·        Production of reports as necessary





Awareness training for all staff on the 4Cs and this policy and procedure, will be regularly provided.  This will also be covered in the new employee induction training.



Appendix **:  



*this is to be used for the council’s website page(s) and the intranet.


Complaints, Concerns, Comments and Compliments


City Of York Council wants to give you the best standard of service and values your feedback on how well we do this. If you would like to have your say about our standard of service, here is our procedure.


If you have a comment


When we receive a comment, we will contact you to thank you within 10 working days if you would like us to. Where you have made a suggestion to improve what we do, a manager will let you know within 20 working days how we will put your suggestion into practice, or explain why we can’t.


If you have a compliment


When we receive a compliment about the standard of service you experienced, we will contact you to thank you within 10 working days if you would like us to. The IGCFteamwill notify any council employee or service to whom the compliment refers within 20 working days. We will use your compliment to maintain or improve our standard of service.  


If you have a complaint or concern


A complaint or concern is a way of letting us know that you are not happy with a particular service.  A complaint or concern may be about a delay, lack of response, or about the standard of service you have received. So, please let us know if:


·     You think we have done something wrong;

·     We have not done something that we said we would do;

·     You are not satisfied with a particular service or set of services that we provide.


We have two grades for dealing with complaints. Insert link to published policy


At any point, if we agree with your complaint we will:


·        Apologise and explain what went wrong;

·        Provide the service you are entitled to receive and

·        Change our process, where relevant, so that the mistake is not repeated.


When this procedure doesn’t apply


We intend, where possible, to deal with all complaints under these procedures. The only exceptions are for anissue which has a separate or specific provision for complaints and appeals, which includes any statutory or legal reasons.  These are listed at the end of this document.


Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO)


The council’s internal 4Cs procedure ends at grade 2 and/or by assessment.  If you are still not satisfied you can contact the LGSCO.  The Ombudsman will not look at the merits of your complaint but may investigate how the Council has dealt with it.  The contact details are on their website at:


Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS)

The council’s internal 4Cs procedure ends at grade 2 and/or by assessment.  If it is more appropriate to refer you onto the Housing Ombudsman Service rather than the LGSCO, we will let you know.  The HOS will not look at the merits of your complaint but may investigate how the Council has dealt with it. The contact details are on their website at:

If you find it difficult to make a complaint yourself


You may wish to ask someone you trust to help you in making a complaint. This could be a friend, relative, voluntary agency or your local councilor or MP.  However in these cases you must supply written consent for this person or organisation having access to your personal information.


Reporting allegation of Fraud or ‘whistle-blowing’


If you suspect that either a member of staff or a service user/member of the public is committing any kind of fraud against the council please contact

Insert whistleblowing link


Unreasonable or unreasonably persistent complaints


Where a complaint is deemed to be deliberately unreasonable or unreasonably persistent, we may, at any stage of the complaints procedure, review a complaint and give a decision without a formal investigation.  You will be informed in writing of this.


Again, if a complaint is substantially the same complaint as has been made by the same complainant within the previous 12 months, then we may choose not to investigate.  You will be informed in writing of this.


Anonymous complaints


We understand that it might be difficult for you to complain because you are worried that it could result in a poorer service to yourself or your household.


Please be assured that we treat all complaints against us in strictest confidence, and that it is your right to complain.  Please note that we don’t always investigate a complaint when it is made anonymously. 


Conduct by Council employees, contractors or partners


Any complaint relating to the conduct or behavior of City Of York Council employees, contractors or partners will be investigated using the relevant council procedure e.g. Human Resources. We will advise you where this is the case, but we will not advise you of any outcomes.


Who can make a complaint, concern, comment or compliment?


This process is for customers who live, work, visit or travel within the City of York and you receive one of our services (directly or through another organisation).  If you are making a concern, comment or complaint you will not be treated unfairly as a result.


If you work for the council, but are also a local resident or service user, you may also make a complaint, concern, comment or compliment using this procedure. You should clearly state that you are not doing so in your capacity as an employee.


How can you make a complaint, concern, comment or compliment?


·     Visit our website and complete the online form

·     Contact the team at: West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

or by phone:01904 554145 or by email:


How we use complaints, concerns, comments and compliments to improve our standards of service   


Your complaint or concern will be dealt with properly and our response will be clear, outlining what we have done and what we are unable to do. On a regular basis, we will evaluate all the 4Cs we receive.  They will recommend changes in processes or service provision where the nature and level of 4Cs indicates that this is appropriate.



Councillors and Members of Parliament


This procedure is intended for individual customers.  Councillors and MPs may bring a comment, compliment, complaint or concern by acting as their constituent’s advocate.


When this procedure doesn’t apply


We intend, where possible, to deal with all complaints under these procedures. The only exceptions are for statutory and legal reasons such as a complaint that has already been heard by a court or tribunal, or a complaint where the customer or the Council has commenced legal proceedings or has taken court action

These exceptions have specific procedures governing complaints and appeals. We will let you know what the correct process is if your complaint falls into one of the categories listed below.

·        Appeals against refusal of planning permission or against conditions placed on a grant of planning permission are dealt with by  ***name**:
By phone:

By email:



·        A complaint about social care services (children and adults) are dealt with by the IGCFteam.  Please contact:

By phone: 01904 554145

By email:



·        A school admission or exclusion appeal. Please contact
By phone:

By email:



·        A complaint about a school. The Local Authority is not responsible for the day to day running of schools. Therefore please contact the school’s Head Teacher or Chair of Governors. See the ** insert link to schools web pages*** for details of how the school complaints procedure works.


·        A complaint from a CYC employee about an employment matter. If you are a member of staff, contact your manager or your HR advisor. If you are a member of the public you can contact the service directly or the IGCFteam – see above for contact details.


·        An appeal against the issue of a penalty charge notice by the parking enforcement team and the recovery process which follows. Please contact:

By phone:

By email:



·        Dispute a fixed penalty for environmental crimes (including dog-fouling) Please contact:

By phone:

By email:



·        Any appeal against the exercise of a police power.  Please contact:

By phone:

By email:

Online: **insert NYP link**


·        A complaint about the independent Rent Officer. The Rent Officer is independent of the Council, and is part of the Valuation Office Agency Please see the VOA website  for more information on how the Rent Officer Determination works.

·        A complaint about Anti-Social Behaviour. Please contact:

By phone:

By email:



·        Appeals regarding Resident Permits. Please contact:

By phone:

By email:



·        A complaint about a Councillor. Please contact:

By phone:

By email:



·        A complaint about a Parish Councillor or Parish Council.Please contact:

By phone:

By email:






We have changed the way we handle our Complaints, Concerns, Comments and Compliments – the 4Cs*

*this is to be used for staff communciations and awareness


We have introduced a revised policy and procedures and the overriding aims of the changes are that:


·        colleagues should help customers and try to resolve any issues that arise quickly

·        we take pride in our good practice and learn from mistakes

·        we have streamlined the processes incorporating best practice and guidance from Ombudsmen


Customers can submit their 4Cs using the online form on our website.


If a customer wants to give us feedback, whether it is a complaint, concern, comment or compliment, the information should be entered through the online form.  If they are confident to fill in the online form themselves, and have internet access signpost them to where they can find the website form and policy **insert link***


If I can pass the customer to a colleague who can deal with their 4C straight away, do I still have to fill in the form?


No.  If you can put the customer through to a colleague on the phone or arrange for them to speak to someone straight away, do so.  The overriding aim of the policy is good service: solving any problems as quickly as possible and stopping them happening to others.   


But… if the colleague isn’t available straight away, then you should record the customer’s 4C on the website form.  This is the best way to make sure the customer gets a quick response.   It is also the quickest way for you to deal with the feedback.

When do I fill in the online form?


All 4Cs should now be entered onto our online form. There are some exceptions, please see **insert page / link to list for outside of this policy for more details.


If a customer is with you or on the phone to you and is not confident to enter details themselves, colleagues should help by filling in the website form on their behalf. This should only take a couple of minutes.


If you have received feedback via email, letter or other means, this should be sent onto IGCFteam as soon as possible but no later than the next working day.


Who is the website form for?


The online form found on the website is for both colleagues and customers.


If you are filling in the form for a customer you should always state on it that you are doing so.

How do I fill in this form?


The form should be self-explanatory, but contact the IGCFteam if you have any queries. 


You should ensure that you have filled in all the required boxes marked with an * asterisk.


What should I tell the customer?


·        If a customer is confident to enter their details themselves, tell them about the internet form and policy which is on our website **insert link**

·        If they do not have access to the internet you can advise them on where their nearest public internet access point is e.g. in the customer centre at West Offices, Libraries, etc.

·        If the customer is not confident to enter details themselves.  Enter their details on the website form (this should only take a couple of minutes)

·        Tell them what will happen next


What can the customer do if they don’t get a response?


·        They can phone the IGCFteam

·        You can assist by contacting the IGCFteam to check they have received it

·        They can fill in another online form, submitting their reference number and ticking the ‘I have complained about this matter before’ box.


Does this new procedure apply to all services?


All council services should use this policy and procedure.  The only exceptions are for those areas noted above e.g. most complaints about social care and children’s services, schools and penalty charge notices.  These exceptions have specific procedures governing complaints and appeals.  See Appendix ** for a full list of exceptions.

Where can I read more about our revised policy?


**insert links **


What resources are there to help me deal with customer feedback?


There is a detailed policy and procedures, training where appropriate and guidance is available from the IGCFteam


How should I deal with any press enquiries?


All requests from any members of the press should be referred to the council’s Communications Team.   No colleague should discuss issues relating to the council or particular cases with the press without first consulting the Communications Team.


How should I deal with Members’/Councillors enquiries?


There is a separate procedure for handling feedback received from Councillors through ** to get from customer services*** . Members /Councillors enquiries are not included in the 4Cs monitoring or reporting as it can include service requests, enquiries and requests for information.


How do I deal with a request from a customer to make a comment, compliment or complaint in an alternative format e.g. another language, using a signer etc.?


Translations and interpreters can be sourced through ** insert link to guidance on this ***


If any language, disability or communication preferences are identified during the course of the customer feedback, the relevant colleague should ensure these are noted on the IGCFteam monitoring system.


How do I deal with a complaint from a Member of Parliament?


If front-line colleagues receive any of the 4Cs from Members of Parliament this should be sent onto the IGCFteamwithin 24 hours, who will manage the response if required.  Enquiries from MPs will be responded to within 10 working days.  In all other respects, complaints from MPs should be handled using this procedure.


What should I do if I receive a complaint with allegations of discrimination or harassment?


If front line colleagues either suspect, or are certain, that a complaint has arisen due to an allegation of discrimination e.g. on the grounds of race, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability – it should be passed onto the IGCFteam as soon as possible.


What should I do if I receive a complaint about a colleague – including assault, threat, theft, inappropriate conduct?


If any colleague receives a complaint regarding inappropriate conduct by a council colleague - the complaint should be referred to the IGCFteam, within 24 hours who will register and progress it.


How should I deal with anonymous compliments, comments, concerns or complaints?


Anonymous compliments, comments, concerns and complaints should be progressed by passing details to the IGCFteam. The remark will be investigated and the usual time periods for this should be achieved.  It is clearly impossible to respond to anonymous complaints any further than this, as we are unable to correspond with the customer.  Where appropriate, amendments to policy / procedures should be fed back to customers via relevant media channels.


It is important that every attempt be made to encourage all customers to provide their identity so that that comments can be processed. An assurance that comments will be treated confidentially may help.



*to be used for both website and intranet pages


There are a number of complaints, concerns,  compliments and comments coming through the City Of York Council Facebook and Twitter accounts which are passed onto the IGCFteam.


However it is possible that various departments are also dealing with social media enquiries on their specific Facebook pages i.e. parks, leisure centre, gritting team.


Guidance for colleagues using social media such as Facebook and Twitter can be found at


For all complaints which are personal to the individual – bring the complaint off line/ off social media   


·        Acknowledge by the end of the day and deal with off line – give the complainant the appropriate contact details for the IGCFteam and ask them to contact us this way.


·        Complaints will then be dealt with as set out in the policy and procedures


·         Timescales for responses are the same as those for complaints received through other channels otherwise we will have a two- tier system, with implications for equality and fairness 


·         We advise that an acknowledgement or a public response be made by the end of the day on social media


Social Media 4Cs monitoring


Social media routes into the council will need to be monitored by the service area(s) regularly for any 4Cs.  This is because they need to be treated the same as any others received from other contact methods.


We recommend mechanisms are put in place to ensure that the IGCFteam is made aware of any 4Cs being received from customers via social media, in a timely manner so that we can become the ‘learning organisation’ that we want to be.







What should I do if I receive a complaint with allegations of discrimination or harassment?


If colleagues receive complaints that appear to relate to allegations of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, maternity or pregnancy, religion or belief, or disability,  the complaint should be taken seriously, handled sensitively, logged and referred to the IGCFteam as soon as possible.  If a complaint involves allegations of harassment or discrimination by non-Council employees, the customer can be provided with details from our website at


It is a requirement under the Public Sector Equalities Duties that we make reasonable adjustments for disabled citizens, and take steps to ensure people are not disadvantaged for reasons relating to their race, faith, etc.  In practice this means that support such as interpreters etc. may be needed in some situations which will need to be met through service area budgets, although this will not always require expenditure (for example, a meeting in person may provide an alternative to translated material). 


In some cases it may be more timely or effective to arrange a meeting with the customer and a translator or other assistance, to resolve a complaint, rather than sending a series of letters or emails.  The council should be sensitive to this possibility and offer it as appropriate.  If any language, disability or communication preferences are identified during the course of the enquiry, the relevant colleague should ensure this is noted on the IGCFteam monitoring system.


If colleagues identify the need for specialist assistance to customers with visual or hearing impairment, guidance is available from *** insert link****   


If you need to communicate (verbally or in writing) with a customer whose first language is one other than English you can contact the ***insert guidance link***