A review of Council’s Unreasonable Complainant Contact Policy has been undertaken taking into consideration the NSW Ombudsman’s ‘Managing Unreasonable Conduct by Complainants Model Policy’.

The proposed policy will replace Council's Current Policy which is based on the ‘Better Practice Guide to Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct’ published in June 2009 by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Council placed the draft policy on public exhibition for a period of 28 days from 2 March 2024 to 30 March 2024 and invited public submissions until 13 April 2024.

Due to the significant number of changes, the new 'draft' policy is provided as a clean version with no mark-ups, with Council’s current Unreasonable Complainant Contact Policy also provided for your reference.

Submissions have now closed.

Any submissions received during the exhibition period will be reviewed and the policy will be presented to Council for adoption.

Why do Councils have an Unreasonable Complainant Contact Policy?

The broad diversity and extent of Council’s operations necessitates that Council staff and Councillors undertake a very large number of customer interactions each year through face to face contact, telephone, written correspondence and on-line platforms.

Residents and visitors to Wagga Wagga have the right to express their views and ask questions about Council services. Indeed customers’ comments and suggestions are imperative in helping Council shape and improve the services it provides.

People who complain to Council can be distressed, angry or upset. This may be because of the problem they are complaining about, or it may be related to their own personal circumstances. Dealing with distressed, angry and upset people is a normal part of complaint handling and Council staff are trained to deal fairly, objectively and empathetically with all complainants.

In the overwhelming majority of interactions customer behaviour is within accepted social norms.

In some cases, however, a complainant’s conduct can go beyond what is acceptable. They may contact Council repeatedly, provide false and misleading information, demand outcomes that are not practicable, be unwilling to accept the complaint handler’s decision and react in an unreasonable manner, threaten harm to themselves or others, or be violent.

It is important that Council manages unreasonable complainant conduct for several reasons.

  • Unreasonable conduct can make it harder for Council to resolve a complaint. It can lead to the complaint issue being blurred, the investigation sidetracked, and process needlessly prolonged.
  • Council’s resources are limited and must be used efficiently in dealing with other customer requests and other functions. All customers are entitled to a fair share of time and resources and a consistent approach by Council in dealing with their issues.
  • Council is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of its staff. Ensuring that all staff are properly trained, supervised and supported in dealing with unreasonable conduct will minimise staff stress.
  • A complaint investigation that is drawn out is less likely to end satisfactorily. The person may change the focus of their grievance to the way the complaint was handled. The ongoing relationship between the person and the Council can be damaged.

What happens next?

Following this public exhibition period, Council will receive a further report addressing any submissions made with respect to the proposed Unreasonable Complainant Contact Policy (POL 056) and proposing adoption of the policy unless there are any recommended amendments deemed to be substantial and requiring a further public exhibition period.