Make a complaint - Formal complaints policy and procedure




Bassetlaw District Council aims to provide the best possible quality services its resources will allow. If a customer is dissatisfied with the way in which a service has been provided by the Council (or by contractors providing a public service on behalf of Bassetlaw District Council) we want to know about it. This can include the way in which someone has been treated or if unreasonable delays have been experienced. We will look into the issue, provide an explanation and an apology (where it is appropriate to do so) with a view to improving our services. We will aim to resolve the situation promptly, fairly and proportionately.

The definition of a complaint is:

An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual or group of individuals.
Organisations contracted to provide services on behalf of the Council will be required to comply with this policy. This includes recording and responding to complaints, providing Council officers with information as requested and providing assistance in connection with further investigations as appropriate. It will be the responsibility of each Head of Service/Service Manager to ensure that this is agreed as part of contractual arrangements.

An individual does not have to use the word ‘complaint’ for it to be treated as such. A complaint that is submitted via a third party or representative must still be handled in line with the complaints policy.
Sometimes a ‘complaint’ made may be a request for service.

A service request may be defined as:
A request that the organisation provides or improves a service, fixes a problem or reconsiders a decision.
This provides the Council with an opportunity to resolve matters to an individual’s satisfaction before they become a complaint.

A service request is a request from an individual requiring action to be taken to put something right. A complaint may be raised when the individual expresses dissatisfaction with the response to their service request, even if the handling of the service request remains ongoing.

Policy Objective 

This Policy has been produced in an Accessible Format. Help will be provided if other formats are required.

Bassetlaw District Council’s main objective is to provide a clear, accessible and transparent process for those wishing to make a complaint.

The standard objective in relation to complaint handling in line with the Ombudsmen Complaint Handling Code(s) is relevant to all employees and third parties that reflects the needs to:

  • Have a collaborative and co-operative approach towards resolving complaints, working with colleagues across teams and departments;
  • Take collective responsibility for any shortfalls identified through complaints, rather than blaming others; and
  • Act within the professional standards for engaging with complaints as set by any relevant professional body

We will:

  • Deal with complaints fairly, professionally and proportionately
  • Resolve matters satisfactorily at the earliest opportunity
  • Maintain a positive complaints culture and use complaints for learning and service improvements
  • Be guided by the best practice and guidance of the Ombudsmen

Confidentiality and General Data Protection (GDPR) 

Complaints will be handled in the strictest of confidence at all times.

Under General Data Protection Regulations 2018 (GDPR), any personal details or information obtained in order to appropriately process your formal complaint in line with procedure will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes as intended in conjunction with the GDPR principles.

The Procedure 

The Council operates a 2-stage internal process, which enables escalation between each stage should complainants remain dissatisfied, prior to referral to the Ombudsman.

Stage 1 Complaint – Formal response by the Head of Service or Service Manager

The complaint that will usually be concerning an issue that has occurred within the last 12 months, will be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt.

The response will be provided by the relevant Head of Service or Service Manager (as appropriate) within 10 working days of the complaint being acknowledged. If it is not possible to provide the response within 10 working days, the complainant will be contacted and advised of the delay and the expected timeframe for responding. Any extension must be no more than 10 working days, with good reason and explanation provided to the complainant. Contact details for the Ombudsman will also be provided at this point. The Stage 1 reply will include the contact details of the author of the letter and an offer to further clarify any points made within the reply.

The response will conclude by offering stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure for those complainants that remain dissatisfied with the reply they have received under stage 1 of the process.

The Council would normally expect a complainant to let us know within 15 working days of receipt of their complaint response that they wish to escalate the complaint to stage 2. However, we realise that there may be legitimate reasons why the complainant was unable to do this in 15 working days, and will therefore be flexible and consider any such reasons and each case on its own merit.

Stage 2 Complaint - Review and response by the Council’s Chief Executive

The acknowledgement of the request for the stage 2 complaint review will be provided within 5 working days of receipt.

For those complainants who are dissatisfied with the stage 1 complaint response they received, a stage 2 review by the Council’s Chief Executive will take place with a response being provided within 20 working days of the complaint being acknowledged. If it is not possible to provide the response within 20 working days, the complainant will be contacted and advised of any new timeframe, which will not exceed a further 20 working days. Good reason with a clear explanation will be provided for any extensions along with the Ombudsman contact details. The stage 2 reply will conclude by offering the contact details of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) for those complainants that remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the stage 2 complaint review.

In line with the Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code, Housing complaints must only be escalated to stage 2 if the complaint has been responded to at stage 1 of the Council’s complaints procedure and at the resident’s request.


Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman

For those complainants that remain dissatisfied following the stage 2 review by the Chief Executive, complainants may exercise their right to seek further advice from the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). The LGSCO investigates complaints about Councils including housing allocations, planning, education and social services. Please note that on occasion there are complaints the LGSCO cannot or will not be able to investigate. In such circumstances, the LGSCO will explain clearly if this is the case and the reasons why this decision has been given.

It should be noted that the LGSCO will not normally consider a complaint unless the Local Authority has first had a chance to address the matter within the Council’s own complaints procedure, however this is at the Ombudsman’s discretion.

The LGSCO contact details are:

  • Website:
  • Telephone 0300 061 0614
  • Postal address: The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, PO Box 4771, Coventry, CV4 OEH.

Housing Ombudsman Service

Complaints about the Council’s Housing Service are handled by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS). The Housing Ombudsman Service is keen to encourage local settlement wherever possible and has set up a scheme where a Designated Person can act on behalf of a complainant. The role of the Designated Person is to mediate, negotiate and if necessary refer the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman Service for investigation.

Designated Persons can be:

  • A Bassetlaw District Councillor
  • A Member of Parliament
  • A Member of a Tenant Panel

A complainant can contact any of the approved Designated Persons and request that they look into the Housing complaint. From 1st October 2022, due to changes to the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, residents can go directly to the Housing Ombudsman Service if they remain dissatisfied at the end of the complaints process without the need for referral by a designated person or without having to wait eight weeks.
The Housing Ombudsman Service contact details are:

How do I make a complaint?

As part of the digital drive, the Council embarked upon a ‘Digital First’ Programme which enables greater accessibility for customers to report complaints quickly and easily. This can be done on-line using the Council’s website at:

The on-line process allows customers to choose whether they wish to receive a reply to their complaint by e-mail or by post ensuring that customers’ preferred options for communicating are considered.

To facilitate as many customers as possible to access our services through digital channels, those requiring help with the digital process can contact the Council’s Customer Services team by e-mail at:, by telephone: 01909 533533 or in person at the Council Offices.

You can also send your complaint in writing either by e-mail to:, or by post to Bassetlaw District Council, Queen’s Buildings, Potter Street, Worksop S80 2AH.

For those that do not have the means to log a complaint on-line, or do not wish to send a letter or e-mail, they may request to log a complaint over the phone, this can be done by contacting Customer Services by telephoning 01909 533533.

Any messages received through social media channels that may constitute the need for the issue to be addressed as a formal complaint will be sign-posted appropriately to the complaints policy and procedure ensuring confidentiality, privacy and the correct routing of the complaint.

You can also register with ‘My Account’ by using the Council’s website link to help with some council service transactions and enquiries.

Help is available

Some complainants may require help in preparing their complaint and the Council can help you to do this. Please contact the Council’s Customer Services team for further information. Alternatively, complainants may prefer a family member, friend or other responsible person to act on their behalf. We would ask that written consent is provided in this case. Citizen’s Advice can also provide free independent advice at: 

Equality Statement: Bassetlaw District Council values and respects the diversity of all people living and working in Bassetlaw and is committed to equality of opportunity in service delivery. We will not treat you any differently because of your age, disability, sex, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation. Additionally, Bassetlaw District Council treats care leavers and people with care experience and members of the Armed Forces, veterans and their families as if these were protected characteristics.

We recognise our responsibilities to provide equal opportunities for all our customers, we will:

  • Ensure all areas of our One Stop Shops are easily accessible to all customers including wheelchair users and customers with prams or buggies
  • Provide access to interpretation services if needed
  • Provide facilities for customers with sight or hearing difficulties
  • Make ‘Reasonable adjustments’ where appropriate to do so in line with the Council’s Equality Strategy.

Types of complaints

It is recognised that certain types of complaints fall outside the scope of this policy and should therefore be dealt with through other mechanisms, or alternative routes, these are:

  1.  Grievances received from existing, or former, employees about their employment. These need to be referred to Human Resources (HR) and considered in line with the Council’s HR policies and procedures.
  2. Issues for which statutory appeal bodies or tribunals have been established, for example, The Appeals Service (for Benefit appeals), The Planning Inspectorate (for Planning appeals).
  3. Complaints which amount to a disagreement with the Council about its decision rather than the way the decision has been administered (e.g. the level of Council Tax).
  4. Complaints regarding a decision made by the Council when exercising its regulatory powers (e.g. licensing, serving notices) or undertaking its statutory duties (e.g. making a decision on a homelessness claim or a planning application decision) unless the complaint relates to the way in which the matter has been administered.
  5. Matters, which are or could reasonably be expected to be the subject of court or tribunal proceedings. Complaints which amount to a disagreement with or refusal to accept a rule of law which the Council is applying.
  6. Complaints about Elected Members’ conduct or decisions/outcomes relating to code of conduct complaints. These are dealt with by the Council’s Monitoring Officer through the Code of Conduct complaints procedure.
  7. Complaints which amount to a request for service (e.g. reporting a noise nuisance) unless it relates to the way in which the Council has administered the request for service. Service requests that are repetitive due to lack of response or are the subject of unreasonable delays may constitute a formal complaint.
  8. Complaints which constitute an allegation of fraud and/or corruption, these will need to be dealt with under the provisions made by the Council’s Whistle Blowing Policy.
  9. Complaints which constitute a racist incident which will need to be dealt with under the procedures covering the reporting of racial incidents.
  10. Complaints which constitute an allegation relating to a safeguarding matter which will be dealt with under the Council’s Safeguarding Policy.
  11. Complaints naming individual officers will be reviewed by an appropriate line manager. Whilst the officer concerned may need to provide any relevant information, it is not appropriate for the individual to sign off the service response. Where, as part of the review of a customer complaint, it becomes apparent that an employee’s standard of performance or conduct fails to meet the Council’s expectations, the matter should be referred to the relevant Head of Service/Service Manager/Director as appropriate to enable an Investigating Officer to be appointed in accordance with the Council’s Disciplinary Procedure.
  12. Complaints about the council causing damage to your property or injury to you. Where a complainant claims that the council is responsible for incidents of this nature you may request an incident report form at: telephone: 01909 533533. On receipt of a fully completed incident report form, the Council’s Insurers will investigate your claim. At the conclusion of this procedure, the decision is final and there is no right of appeal under the Council’s complaints procedure.
    In the event that you wish to pursue your claim through the legal process, or you are not satisfied with the Council’s Insurer’s decision, then you should seek independent legal advice.
    Examples of claims, where independent legal advice would be appropriate, may include claims for damages against the Council for personal injury, for damage to property and for Housing disrepair if you are a Council tenant.

In the event that you wish to pursue your claim through the legal process, or you are not satisfied with the Council’s Insurer’s decision, then you should seek independent legal advice.

Examples of claims, where independent legal advice would be appropriate, may include claims for damages against the Council for personal injury, for damage to property and for Housing disrepair if you are a Council tenant.

Anonymous complaints

Some customers may elect to remain anonymous when reporting complaints.

For verbal complaint reporting, the employee dealing with the anonymous telephone call or face-to-face contact needs to explain that whilst respecting the customer’s decision to remain anonymous, this may create restrictions when trying to resolve the matter, for example, we will be unable to provide feedback or request further information if required at a later date.

It will be the responsibility of each Service Manager/ Head of Service to decide how far investigations can proceed into complaints received anonymously. This will be dependent on the content and nature of the complaint and any legislative requirements to investigate the matter.

Some individuals may have valid reasons for choosing to remain anonymous, for example, fear of reprisal. It is therefore important that each anonymous complaint is considered on its own merits and assurance is given regarding the strict confidentiality of complaint handling.

Policy Statement - Unacceptable Customer Behaviour 

The Council has standards in place in order to maintain a high quality of customer care.

We expect every customer to receive excellent customer service and as part of this we will be helpful to customers, serving them at all times with dignity, courtesy and respect, and respond to their individual needs.

At the same time we expect our employees to be treated with respect and courtesy. Whilst we understand that people sometimes act out of character in times of anxiety or distress and can become angry and/or frustrated, we will not accept behaviour from customers that is threatening, abusive or unreasonably persistent

What is Unacceptable Behaviour

Aggressive or Abusive behaviour which could include:

  • Threatening or abusive language
  • Derogatory, offensive or rude comments which humiliate, intimidate, frighten or demean employees or other customers
  • Unsubstantiated allegations
    Violence or threats of violence

Unreasonable demands which could include:

  • Requests for excessive amounts of information
  • Setting unreasonable timescales
  • Continual insistence on seeing a particular employee
  • Continual contact
  • Changing the substance of a complaint or introducing unrelated concerns

Unreasonable persistence which could include:

  • Refusal to accept a decision
  • Refusal to accept explanations of what a service area can and cannot do.


Dealing with unreasonable and persistent complaints

The following options can be used singularly or as a combination depending on the circumstances of the case and whether the complaint process is ongoing or concluded.

  1. A letter to the complainant setting out responsibilities for the parties involved if the Council is to continue processing the complaint. If terms are contravened, consideration will then be given to implementing other action as indicated below.
  2. Decline contact with the complainant, either in person, by telephone, by letter or by e-mail or any combination of these, provided that one form of contact is maintained.
  3. This may also mean that only one named officer or e-mail address will be nominated to maintain contact. The complainant will be notified of this person or e-mail address.
  4. Notify the complainant in writing that the Council has responded fully to the points raised and has tried to resolve the complaint and there is nothing further to add and continuing contact on the matter will serve no useful purpose. The complainant will also be notified that the correspondence is at an end, and the Council does not intend to engage in further correspondence in respect of the complaint.
  5. Inform the complainant that in some circumstances the Council will seek legal advice.
  6. Temporarily suspend all contact with the complainant in connection with the issues relating to the complaint that are viewed as unreasonable or persistent, while seeking advice or guidance from the Council Solicitor or other agencies, such as the Ombudsman.

There may be occasions where, although a complainant is not considered to be ‘Unreasonable or Persistent’ within the meaning of the policy, the subject and/ or history of the complaint may mean that it is not appropriate to consider the complaint in accordance with the policy. Similarly, there may be reasons for refusing to escalate a complaint, and where this occurs any reasons for refusal will be fully explained.

When considering whether a complaint falls outside the scope of the policy in this way, the Council would have regard to the following points (although other points may also be considered);

  • The Council must prioritise its resources and deal with matters proportionately, efficiently and effectively
  • The matter complained of concerns a relatively low level issue that has been repeatedly addressed, and there is nothing further to be gained from continuing a dialogue about it or going through the complaints procedure
  • The matter complained of has already been addressed at high level and there will be no difference to the outcome or nothing to gain from progressing the complaint
  • The matter is thought to be too historic (more than 12 months have passed since the issue occurred) unless there are reasonable grounds as to why the complainant did not progress the complaint at that time.

Remedies to complaints and Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman

The Council will aim to put things right at the earliest opportunity if they go wrong and will look to implement service improvements and learning where appropriate to do so. We will also assess themes and trends to identify potential systemic issues and serious risks and consider policies and procedure revision where appropriate to do so. The Council will publish its policy and the complaint handling codes together with Ombudsman details and Annual Reports. We will do this by including information on the Council’s web-site, within tenant newsletters, social media, posters in our buildings, within our surveys and tenant meetings.

This policy will work in conjunction with the requirements of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) and Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) Complaint Handling Codes.

The Council will be guided by the case studies, reports, best practice principles, standards and guidance of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman Service in order to provide the best possible quality services our resources will allow.

Sign-posting to other support services / agencies 

We recognise that sometimes our customers and residents may need additional support that may be provided from other agencies to help them throughout a difficult period.

Citizen’s Advice

National Debtline

Welfare Rights

Money Helper Service (free and impartial help with money)

Nottinghamshire Mind



Last Updated on Tuesday, June 11, 2024