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Mitchell Shire Council’s ‘lapse’ in resident complaint system

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Grace Frost
Grace Frost
Hi, I'm Grace Frost. I was honoured to report for the Review as their Digital Journalist from mid-2022 to the beginning of 2024. Ive since made a move to the Herald Sun.

Mitchell Shire Council chief executive officer Brett Luxford has admitted to a ‘lapse’ in council’s resident complaints system, which resulted in multiple reports going unseen and unresponded to.

The ‘Report It’ tool is a reporting system on council’s website where residents can report non-emergency issues including abandoned cars, flooding or drainage issues, litter, odours, dumped rubbish, overgrown grass, road concerns and footpaths in need of attention.

Mr Luxford said introducing and transitioning to a new Customer Relationship Management, CRM, system resulted in an ‘oversight’ of the Report It tool.

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Between April and July, 13 submissions relating to several council areas did not receive a response.

“Regrettably, the transition to the new CRM has presented some challenges, resulting in the oversight of contacting some individuals who submitted requests through the Report It tool, seeking follow-up,” he said.

“Council sincerely apologises for this lapse and is actively engaged in refining our services to enhance efficiency and responsiveness.

“Our primary objective is to foster a customer-centric approach aimed at enhancing the overall experience for people engaging with the organisation.”

Council regularly refer residents to report their concerns via the Report It tool, including in a response to the Review in June regarding the state of the shire’s footpath network.

Chintin resident and Collingwood’s Victorian Wheelchair Football League captain Ben Jankovski called for Wallan’s footpaths to be more wheelchair friendly and accessible.

Mr Jankovksi, permanently paralysed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair daily, urged council to focus more attention on the unfinished footpaths in Wallan’s residential areas and High Street, which were causing mobility difficulties for wheelchair users.

“Someone like me who can push in a manual chair can sort of manipulate around [the cracks], but those that have an electric wheelchair, they’re 120 kilograms, and one little crack or crevice can tip them over, cause damage to the person and the machine itself,” he told the Review.

In response, then mayor Fiona Stevens directed concerned residents to report footpaths needing repairs to council via the tool online.

To verify council’s suggested repair method, the Review submitted an online report as a resident using the Report It tool in June on Mr Jankovski’s behalf.

The online submission specifically mentioned the footpaths connecting the pedestrian crossings on High Street nearby McDonald’s in Wallan, as per Mr Jankovski’s concerns.

The Review also sought follow-up to the outcome of its report.

While providing comments for the story in June, five months later, council was yet to respond to the Review’s online report or address the concerns.

On November 21, the Review received a call from a council worker after following up on the report, and was told the submission had only been received in the road maintenance department on November 15.

While initially attributing the Review’s June complaint as an ‘isolated incident’, Mr Luxford later corrected himself when the Review requested the exact number of reports that had been overlooked.

He said council remained aware of the need for footpath repairs.

“We recognise the significance of footpaths in the daily lives of Mitchell residents, and we are aware of the need for remedial works on certain older footpaths,” he said.

“Council officers routinely conduct inspections throughout the shire, identifying areas for new footpaths and repairs to existing ones.

“New footpaths and repairs are completed in line with council’s Footpath Renewal Program and Missing Links Footpath Program.”

Mr Luxford said works on the section of footpath in Wallan were scheduled for the 2023-24 financial year but gave no specific dates.

A council worker suggested work to the footpath section would likely take place in the third quarter of the financial year.

The footpath was assessed as having ‘no major defects’ to justify reactive maintenance but was still flagged for renewal.

“Despite this incident, council encourages community members to report any footpaths in need of attention by calling 5734 6200 or utilising the Report It tool,” Mr Luxford said.

Council said the missed reports are now being followed up by the relevant departments.

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