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?Residents? champion? will give people more faith in complaints system, says Royal Borough leader

?Residents? champion? will give people more faith in complaints system, says Royal Borough leader

Simon Meechan

A soon-to-be appointed ‘residents’ champion’ will give people more faith in the council’s complaints system according to the Royal Borough’s leader.

The council plans to appoint a ‘local ombudsman’ by July 2016, one of 136 items in its manifesto which it says are on track.

Dubbed a ‘residents’ champion’, the aim of the ombudsman is to improve the council’s response to complaints.

Leader of the Royal Borough, Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray), said the current system sees residents file complaints to the same people they are complaining about. A new ombudsman, which would see complaints about the council dealt with in the borough, would be independent of council departments, and therefore complainants should be happier dealing with them.

Cllr Burbage said: “It would be nice to do that locally. At the moment you have to put a complaint in with the local government ombudsman. That can take months.

“We think it will be effective in giving some strength to the complainant rather than feeling it’s one complainant against the entire force of the Royal Borough.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Burbage says the outcome of complaints made against the council’s decision to award Holyport College £480,000 is ‘not too far away’.

The Royal Borough’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, Cllr Simon Dudley, voted on the decision, despite being a founder of Holyport College, as did cabinet member for education, Cllr Phillip Bicknell, whose son works at Holyport College. Both declared interests in the school at the meeting where the plans were first approved.

Cllr Burbage added: “Residents have made complaints against councillors, which will be dealt with in the normal way. If the council’s found in breach it will be published, if found not to be in breach there will be ‘complaint was this, response was this’.”

He said he does not want to dissuade councillors from becoming school governors and vice versa, while changes to the code of conduct will make it clearer when to declare personal interests. He added: “It’s a difficult area to strike the right balance, but we are trying to do so.”

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