Local News

Council accused of under-reporting complaints by ombudsman

Ballarat Town Hall

The Victorian ombudsman is accusing councils of faking complaints figures by classifying them as requests for service.

A new report has found the City of Ballarat recorded 606 complaints last year, but received some 20,741 service requests.

The biggest complaint was around waste collection, not including missed bin collections, totalling 455, with another 45 around landfill.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass found many councils across Victoria under-report the number of complaints they receive, largely due to complaints being perceived as a nuisance, or being unable to differentiate between what warrants a complaint versus a request for service.

She notes that capturing complaints allows councils to consider how they can address common themes to improve their service to their communities.

In the report, council also admits it does not analyse complaints they receive to identify trends or areas for improvement.

In their submission to the report, the City of Ballarat quoted as saying "There is no formal process to analyse complaints and trends. These have largely been identified via emerging issues within the business units."

The City of Ballarat however is not the only council accused of such practice, with Ms Glass reporting that an absence of a complaints policy or record-keeping system was evident across a number of councils around Victoria.

The report by Ms Glass did commend the City of Ballarat on being able to provide data around the number of complaints around specific issues, highlighting it as an example of good practice.

In a statement regarding the report's findings, the City of Ballarat says they will review their practices.

"Following the Victorian Ombudsman's report, we will review our practices and make adjustments where appropriate."

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