Complaining about local council services

It may be necessary to complain to the local council if services are inadequate or failing. So what are the main services provided by councils and how can complaints be made?

What are the key services provided by local councils?

In England, there are generally two tiers of local government: (i) county councils and (ii) district, borough or city councils. Some of the key services for which councils are responsible include:

  • education

  • transport

  • planning

  • fire and public safety

  • social care

  • libraries

  • rubbish collection, recycling and waste management

  • trading standards

  • housing

For a full list of services provided by a council, go to your local council website.

How can you complain about local council services?

You may decide to complain about your local council because:

  • a council service has not been properly delivered

  • there have been long delays in addressing an issue

  • council staff are rude or communication is poor

  • the council has failed to fulfil legal obligations

In order to lodge a formal complaint, the first step is to complain to the council service provider (via the complaints department of your local council). If an initial complaint is not resolved, it may be possible to escalate the complaint to the council's complaints officer (also via the complaints department of your local council).

If the complaints department or complaints officer of a local council fails to satisfactorily resolve a complaint, it can then be escalated to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

For housing related complaints, rather than pursuing a complaint, it may be more effective to ask for a decision to be reviewed - eg in the case of:

  • housing benefit claims

  • homeless applications

  • housing waiting list applications

See the Shelter website for more information on housing complaints.

What is the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman?

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman acts as the final stage for complaints about councils, all adult social care providers and some other organisations providing local public services. It considers complaints which relate to:

  • the way a council service has been provided

  • how a council decision has been made

The Ombudsman generally only consider complaints which have already gone through the local council's internal complaints procedure.

For information on raising a complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, visit their complaints page.

For complaints involving housing, the Housing Ombudsman considers complaints from council tenants and leaseholders.

What is the role of local mayors and MPs?

Some cities and areas of the UK have directly elected mayors who have certain responsibilities for their local areas. It may sometimes be possible to raise an issue directly with a local mayor. They are often contactable via social media, email or other online methods.

The job of local MPs is to serve their constituents and to represent their interests and concerns at a national level. However, they will often be able to intervene on a wide variety of issues. To find out how to contact your local MP, go to the mySociety website.