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Guide to Councils

Complaints and resolutions

Activities offered by councils are diverse and extensive. Councils offer over 100 different services to their communities. They enforce various state and local laws in matters relating to land use, planning, environment protection, public health, traffic, parking and animal management.

Services offered by councils are also diverse. They include property, economic, human, recreational and cultural services.

Community infrastructure maintained by councils in Victoria includes roads, bridges, drains, town halls, libraries, recreation facilities, parks and gardens. Given the breadth of activities and services provided by councils, it comes as no surprise that they receive a large number of complaints.

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with:

  • the quality of an action taken, decision made or service provided by a council or its contractor
  • a delay or failure to provide a service, take action, or make a decision by a council or its contractor.

Complaints about an elected council

If you wish to raise a concern with either the elected council or council administration, you should contact the council administration to find out how to do this.

Each council has its own procedure for handling complaints and there are a number of ways in which this may be done:

  • Requesting to speak on the matter at a meeting of the council or committee (this may only be possible at the time the matter is being formally considered and will require council approval)
  • Raising the matter during public question time at a meeting, subject to the council's procedures
  • Speaking with, or writing to, councillors.

If a matter relates to a decision of the elected council, rather than an action or decision of the council administration, it may require a formal council decision to resolve the particular problem. If you would like to know about a council’s resolution on a decision, the minutes of the council meeting should include both the report considered by the council and the precise wording of the council decision.

Both of these are available from the council or their website.

Complaints about a council administration

Formal complaints about the actions or decisions made by council administration should initially be put in writing and addressed to either a Customer Service Officer or the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the council.

To find out more about how to make a complaint visit Consultation and Complaints.

If you have a concern with a service, activity or council decision, there are a number of tips to help you make your complaint.

1. Address the issue with your council first

The first step in working out any difficulty with a council is to make contact. There may be a very simple solution to your problem, or you may even find that the council isn't the right organisation to deal with your complaint.

Each council has its own established processes for handling complaints, objections and appeals. These should always be followed in the first instance. Council can also provide you with advice on how to make a complaint or seek a review of a decision that has been made by council.

2. Ways to contact councils

Apart from resolving your complaint, bringing the matter to the attention of the organisation may result in changes to their policies or procedures that will benefit other members of the community. You can find your council here.

An initial telephone call may clarify some of the issues that you have. It may also help you understand the council’s complaint-handling procedures.For example, some complaints may require completing a special form. If you do choose to phone, ask for the officer’s name and position and keep notes of what was said, and the time and date of your call.

You may also find a solution to your problem on your council’s website. More information about the relevant activity or service may also be on the website.

In most instances, it is best to state your complaint in a written letter or email.Your letter should be clear and to the point.

It should be set out in a logical order and include:

  • date
  • name, address and daytime telephone number
  • description of the incident or problem
  • relevant dates, places and times
  • relevant details of any telephone conversations and meetings
  • any explanations you think are important
  • copies of relevant documents
  • result you are seeking.

Make sure your demands are reasonable. If your request is realistic and within the power of the person you are writing to, you are more likely to get your complaint resolved.

It is important that you keep copies of all the letters you send and receive as well as details of all telephone calls. You may need to provide evidence of your dealings with the council, particularly if you decide to refer the matter on to another body.

3. Receiving a response

Councils receive a large amount of correspondence and it may take some weeks for them to address your complaint. If nothing happens, you may wish to call them to check on the progress of your complaint.

If you are dissatisfied with the response, you may ask the council what your rights of appeal are. After this process, if your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, or not dealt with in a reasonable time, you may choose to take your complaint further to another complaint handling body.

4. Taking your complaint to another organisation

The tips outlined above are also relevant when making a complaint to another complaint-handling body. This guide provides details on who you can contact, depending on your complaint. It is recommended you seek legal advice before taking your complaint to any court or tribunal.

Legal action

In some cases you may wish to consider taking a matter to court. However, this is generally a last resort and if you choose to do this, it is advisable to get suitable advice from a qualified lawyer. 


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