The City of Ballarat recognises the importance of complaints management as part of a quality customer service system.
The City of Ballarat welcomes the opportunity to resolve issues. All members of the public have the right to complain or provide feedback. The organisation takes all complaints seriously and is committed to a culture of effective, equitable complaint management and continuous improvement through positive outcomes.
Although most problems can be resolved through initial communication with officers there may be occasions where it is necessary to make a formal complaint. Formal complaints should first be lodged with the City of Ballarat for investigation and resolution before a formal complaint is made to another organisation.
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the level and quality of service provided by City of Ballarat staff, Councillor/s, and/or contractors, or as a result of the City of Ballarat’s systems, policies or procedures. It should not be trivial, frivolous or vexatious and should contain sufficient information/detail to ensure the complaint can be investigated in full and in a timely fashion. The complaint must relate to matters that the City of Ballarat has the jurisdiction to resolve.
A problem may be resolved by seeking more information about the relevant activity or service via the City of Ballarat website or speaking to City of Ballarat staff.
If initial communication with the City of Ballarat does not resolve the problem, a formal approach may be considered. There are two different types of complaints, each requiring a different form of response:
Formal complaints about matters that relate to an action or decision made by City of Ballarat staff.
Formal Council decisions
Sometimes a matter relates to a Council decision. Given City of Ballarat employees are required to implement Council’s decisions, it may require a formal Council decision to resolve the problem.
To determine a Council decision, the Council minutes include both the report considered by Council and the precise wording of the Council decision. Some reports such as contracts are confidential and in these instances only the decision will be published. Minutes are available for public inspection via City of Ballarat Customer Service, 25 Armstrong Street South, and online.
The CEO is appointed by Council to employ and manage all staff and to ensure Council decisions are implemented.
You can reasonably expect the CEO to give your complaint proper consideration, or direct it to an appropriate person to consider, and you should receive a helpful response. Please allow sufficient time to resolve the complaint. The City of Ballarat will endeavour to resolve all complaints within one month; however, where the matter is more complex this time period may be significantly extended.
The staged process is outlined here:
Stage 1: When we receive an administrative complaint it will be investigated by the service area that provided the service. If it is a complaint about a staff member, that person’s manager/coordinator will resolve it with you. If you are not satisfied with the response or the way in which your complaint was handled and believe there is sufficient grounds you can ask for your complaint to be referred to a Stage 2 Review.
Stage 2:If your complaint reaches this stage it will be investigated by a director of the department and a response provided as quickly as possible. If you are still not happy with the response to this review you can refer your complaint to the Chief Executive Officer for a Stage 3 Review.
Stage 3:The Chief Executive Officer will review the case and provide a response. It is important to understand all complaints will start at Stage 1. Where a complaint is directed to the CEO it will be passed back to the relevant department to enable Stage 1 of the process to be conducted.
A response from the CEO may:
Lead to a resolution of your problem
Result in an alternative solution that partly resolves your problem, and/or
Provide an explanation about why the problem cannot be resolved
Formal Council decisions
Possible ways to raise a concern with Council include:
Speaking with or writing to Councillors
Requesting to speak on a matter at a meeting of the Council or committee
Raising the matter during public question time at a Council meeting
In some cases the process of making formal Council decisions involves public consultation and City of Ballarat staff will be able to advise you if there is a public consultation process where you can participate.
Complaints about formal Council decisions will be investigated by the Chief Executive Officer.
Once a complaint is investigated and it has been determined the organisation has made an error, the City of Ballarat will undertake appropriate action to redress the situation.
All remedies need to be fair to the affected person and to the City of Ballarat. There will be occasions when an error is irreversible and the only practical remedy available is an apology and action to prevent similar errors in the future.
Responses deemed appropriate and reasonable to remedy errors and/or deficiencies in policies may include but are not limited to:
An explanation (via department or media enquiry)
A change in decision
Repair or rework
A change to a policy or local law
Waiving of a fine
Refunding or making financial adjustments for underpayment or overpayment made
Although anonymous complaints will not be rejected, they may limit the City of Ballarat’s ability to fully investigate the problem depending on the amount of information supplied.
If the complaint/request appears to relate to public safety then an investigation will be undertaken and rectification undertaken if found necessary.
If the complainant remains anonymous and the complainant is abusive or derogatory of City of Ballarat staff or Councillors no further action will be taken.
Due to the anonymity, the City of Ballarat will be unable to provide reasons for any decisions or actions taken. If insufficient information is deemed to have been supplied, no further action will be taken.
Protected Disclosure complaints
Complaints of corrupt or improper conduct by a public officer or body. More information can be found on the Protected Disclosure page.
What is not considered a complaint?
A request for service and/or action by Council
Reports of a hazard (eg. fallen tree)
Reports concerning neighbours that trigger legislation, local laws or other regulations administered or enforced by Council to be enacted (eg dog barking, noise issues)
A request for information or an explanation of a policy or procedure
Decisions made under legislation which provides for separate avenues of appeal (eg Building Act decisions and General Local Law prosecutions)
An alleged breach under the Councillor Code of Conduct
Occasionally the City of Ballarat receives a complaint involving neighbours which in many instances cannot be resolved by Council. On these occasions the City of Ballarat may direct complainants to other resources including the Dispute Settlement Centre on 1800 658 528, the Law Handbook www.lawhandbook.org.au and Reaching Agreement www.disputes.vic.gov.au.
Understanding broader constraints
The City of Ballarat has to act in the best interests of the entire community and will have to take into account the needs of other individuals or groups as well as financial and legal restrictions.
If your problem affects other people it is possible their needs or views may be different from your own. In addition, the City of Ballarat may not be able to afford the cost of works or services that could resolve your problem or it may be unable to do something because of laws that prevent or require particular actions.
The process may result in a compromise or acceptance the City of Ballarat cannot do what you want. If this happens the City of Ballarat will provide an explanation.
Complaining to another organisation
Finally, if you are still unable to resolve your problem with the City of Ballarat, there are a number of organisations that can consider complaints relating to a council. Each of these organisations have specific roles and limitations.
Generally, you should only take your concern to another organisation if you have been unable to first resolve your complaint with the City of Ballarat.
Other organisations which may be able to assist with Council complaints are: