Posts Tagged ‘Complaints Procedure’

Borough Council last night

September 21, 2011

Here is the agenda from last night.  A long meeting that finished at around 11pm.

It was one of those meetings where I was hugely proud of my Group and its performance last night.  Easily won the debate on agenda item 5 (Adult Social Care Consultation Outcome) but did not have the numbers and lost the vote.  The amount of work, research and thought that John Todd, Liz Mammatt & Pam Fisher have put into this has been astonishing and it all showed last night.  Some Labour Members, including Colin Ellar, made considered and non-partisan contributions.  The contributions from the Ed Mayne & Sachin Gupta were unfortunate for their inaccuracy, lack of objectivity coupled with an excessive partisan approach.  Shame that there is no webcast after debates such as these.

John Todd & Adrian Lee tabled the following motion to agenda item 5:

Proposed by Councillor John Todd
Seconded by Councillor Adrian Lee
 
“This Council believes that the process adopted to implement the proposed closure of Chiswick Day Centre (CDC) has been consistently flawed and materially misleading for the following reasons:

* The LBH Public ‘Budget Consultation 2011’ Document  (CS 13/15) did not mention ‘Closure’ but ‘reconfiguration of day care services”   Residents were materially misled;

* Initial Consultation with users/carers at the Chiswick Day Centre did not mention ‘closure’ either. This caused much distress and confusion to users and carers;  Dementia sufferers and others with diverse medical conditions were not provided with counselling and guidance or the offer of advocacy

* Attendance figures at CDC have been quoted in various LBH documents, namely December 2010 and May 2011, yet no vetting process for new users has been in operation since September 2010. Since March 2011, residents from Greenrod  LBH sheltered housing were prevented from attending CDC

And in addition

* Council agreed in March to increase the charges by up to 3000% for those attending the CDC and other Centres; CDC Users accept these increases which when implemented would materially decrease the financial obligation of LBH to the CDC costs.  However the Consultation process on these new increased charges have yet to commence.

* Suggested alternative proposed LBH options are not viable or considered  to be  appropriate by the Alzheimer’s Society and others.

* Two subsequent  petitions have confirmed that the Public does not want closure;  National Charities including  the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Carers UK and Chiswick based GP’sand  District nurses are opposed to closure too  as are the Hounslow Deanery Synod..

Council therefore agrees that the suggestion to close Chiswick Day Centre does not proceed.”

The above motion was also lost.

Other items from last night:

Announcements (agenda item 2)
A provision for cabinet members that is not always used within the spirit of the provision, namely to make informative announcements about their portfolios rather than complaining about central government.  Last night Theo Dennison used it to talk about the Boundaries Review.  He asked for cross-party support for the Council expressing a view.  He will not get that as the Labour Party, and any other party, can make submissions.  Individuals can too.  But using Council resources is not appropriate in my view.

Petitions (agenda item 4)
One of the petitions related to Feltham Arena.  I wanted to speak after the presentation but was not allowed to do so.  I followed 90% of what the Lead Member, Theo Dennison, said.  It was the 10% that I did not.  Overall, I do not think he was closing the door on the current tenants.  I hope that he does not and gives an opportunity for things to get moving again.
I would have expressed concerns about some of the wording of the petition and the Lead Member, with whom I have not discussed this, appeared to share these.

Annual Review of the Council’s Complaints Procedures
The Conservative Group were happy to support but I did not speak, as planned, because it was late and the report was not contentious.  I was merely going to welcome the report and acknowledge that the Complaints Panel has been a massive success.  I was thinking of reminding the Chamber that Colin Ellar once said the Complaints Panel would be legally challenged.  It has not been.

Hounslow’s response to the Government’s consultation on their ‘Aviation Scoping document’
Supported cross party.

Manor Lane Regeneration Scheme – Compulsory Purchase Order
The wheels of local government move slowly but we welcomed this and agree with the points John Cooper made about CPO being the last resort.

Confirmation of Establishment of an Alcohol Free ‘Designated Public Place’ Report on Public Consultation
A majority of members supported this.

Civil Enforcement of Moving Traffic Contraventions
The Conservative Group had a Free Vote on the matter.  I was inclined to support it but changed to an abstention as I have concerns about both the partisan response from the Leader, Ed Mayne, and, more importantly that a very moderate motion of mine was rejected by him and the Labour Group.  It illustrates why it changed my vote from supporting the provisions to abstaining on them:

“Proposer: Councillor Mark Bowen
Seconder: Councillor John Todd
 
Learning a lesson from the implementation of the ‘Civil Enforcement of Moving Traffic Contraventions’ report that was agreed by Borough Council on 24 January 2006, and further to the provision outlined in section 3.8, this Council agrees that the following recommendations should be added to this report:
 
* 2.4 That Members be given, in advance, the relevant details of the deployment of CCTV in their wards.

* 2.5 That Area Committees be given the opportunity to offer suggested areas for CCTV deployment.”

The answers to the first two tabled questions were not controversial, indeed the first was helpful and I did not use the supplementary question because of it, but the answer to the third should be headline news.  The question was:

“For how long can the Lead Member guarantee a weekly collection of residual waste in the London Borough of Hounslow?”

The Lead Member could not give any guarantee.  She referred to wanting to increase recycling (as we all do) but I do not think that scrapping the above is the fairest option.  She will know, as I do, that most residents want weekly collections of residual waste.  In her response to the supplementary question, she said it was the previous administration who scrapped weekly collections.  She is not correct when it comes to residual waste.

Well done to all of my colleagues!

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Complaints Panel

March 17, 2010

I chaired a Complaints Panel last night and it is almost certainly the last one I will be involved in before the elections.  Subject to what others decide over the next couple of months it could be my last one?

It is always a good idea to look back briefly and consider what has gone well and not so well.  If I was to produce a list of the best and most important five things I have done as a Lead Member since 2006, the creation of this panel would most certainly feature.  I wrote a piece about it on Conservative Home – here.

Whilst I was angry at the terrible legacy that my predecessor left me and the bad reasons the previous adminstration gave against this panel being set up (I first suggested it when in opposition), credit is due to the Labour Group for being part of this, especially the likes of Councillor Vaught who have made a great contribution to the success.  Others have also done really well, amongst them Councillors Gill Hutchison, Barbara Harris, Peter Hills, Shirley Fisher, Sam Hearn, Councillor Andy Morgan-Watts, Linda Nakamura and Paul Lynch

This goes to prove that implementation is sometimes more important than the idea and execution is more important than the strategy.

Another example of a brilliant turnaround!

Recent Borough Council Meeting

November 1, 2009

Last Tuesday was the Borough Council Meeting.  Here is the agenda.  At the beginning, I made an announcement about a very major project at the Council, namely to safeguard the IT Operation at the Council by building a new Data Centre.  This is not the type of success that would be well known outside of the walls of the Civic Centre but I can place my hand on heart and say how proud I am of what has been achieved – it was a crucial piece of work.  It has been well managed and hugely reduces what was a major risk to the Council.  The Interim Head of ICT has received a mention in the Press recently.  I know that I, as Lead Member for Corporate Services at the Council, have a lot to thank Tony Glew for.  A tremendous Leader who has contributed in a major way towards turning things around.  I will probably say more on this once the Data Centre Project is closed.

Item 5 was a report in my name and one that I am very proud of.  Yet another example of how this administration has turned things around since we became the administration in 2006.

The key feature of the report was the very clear indication that the Stage 3 Members Panel, established at my recommendation, has been a big success in terms of making sure that the Council resolves more complaints that it receives much earlier than previous.

I began to think that this was a good idea not long after I was elected in 2002, having seen how a constituent of mine was treated in one case.  The matter was formally discussed in 2005.  The then Labour Administration had no interest and produced rubbish arguments for why it would not work.

Now that this has been proven to be a big success, does anyone think that the Labour Group said anything on the lines of, “we are pleased to acknowledge that our previous opposition to this idea was not well founded”?  Quickest ways to form an opinion are either to listen to the Council’s webcast or just judge on past experiences.

Council Executive Meeting earlier this week

July 18, 2009

Some terribly important reports were taken to Executive last Tuesday.  I was especially excited about items 11 & 14.  The report considered under item 11 is an example of Green IT at its best.  There are both environmental and cashable benefits.  With regards to item 14, the foundations laid by my friend and colleague, Adrian Lee, continue to be built on by the recent addition, Becky Stewart.

Item 3 was in my name.  I am concerned about the impression that it has given to some people and also the content of an article in the Chronicle last week.  Every organisation needs to have a policy like this in place and I would be surprised if the amount of people categorised as vexatious complainants was ever more than half a dozen.  The prospect of anyone believing that the Council would label someone as vexatious because they are making legitimate enquiries or complaints horrifies me.  Not long after being first elected, there was a case that I took on and I was horrified at the way a constituent and I were treated.  She was let down in a big way and the tactic of not answering questions and causing more frustration was deployed.  I could see that the Council had a major problem with its Complaints Procedure (despite having pockets of brilliance) and I quickly identified this as the element of the Customer Service Umbrella that needed the most attention when I became Lead Member in 2006.

I quickly took a report on becoming Lead Member that reversed the decision of the previous Labour administration to increase the timescales for dealing with complaints.  I also instigated other changes that reconfigured the Procedure to establish a Panel of Councillors to determine complaints at Stage 3.  I believe that the changes have been revolutionary.

These changes were not welcomed at first.  I first suggested them when in opposition but they were strongly opposed by the previous administration who made claims from predicting that it would be legally challenged to it would lead to a conflict of interest.  Despite the success since, only one person has acknowledged that they were wrong to oppose the establishment of the Members Panel.

My friend and colleague, Phil Andrews, posted about this most recent report recently.  I think I have been guilty in not giving enough thought to how the provisions in this report would be perceived by others.  I did try and reassure people when presenting the report that it would genuinely only be used where fully justified.  Asking legitimate questions will not be a reason for limiting the type of contact that a resident can have with the Council.

I am as passionate about the importance of complaints now, as I was when first elected.  The Council, and how it deals with the thousands of complaints,  is not perfect every time but I know that residents who will have the need to use the Council’s Complaints Procedure in the future now have a much better prospect of a better experience than they did a few years ago.  I am confident that there is a pool of Members who deal with Complaints at Stage 3 that will accept departments having a different point of view to residents but they will not accept any example of questions not being answered or legitimate issues, where the Council has a role, addressed.  I can honestly say that there has not yet been that case in all the panels I have been on that has angered me because of attempts to grind people down with no answers or answers to questions not asked.  There has been a step changed in earlier resolution of complaints and that is what I wanted to achieve.

Here is some information about how complaints work at Hounslow.  If you ever feel let down by the Council, I strongly urge you to complain.