We have seen a string of very disturbing correspondence with HS2 Ltd and the Residents Commissioner. This correspondence suggests that HS2 Ltd appear to be attempting “water down” their complaints processes with the “blessing” of the Residents Commissioner.
The proposed complaints process appears to be as follows:-
- Any complaint that comes into the business through any email address is forwarded on to the Public Response Team for investigation.
- Once an issue has been acknowledged as a complaint, staff at HS2 Ltd know that they should not reply to complainants directly.
- All complaint responses are sent out from the Public Response Team.
When investigating a complaint, the Public Response Manager will liaise closely with all relevant and appropriate staff members and Heads of Department. The HS2complaints@HS2.org.uk is to be the point of contact with HS2 Ltd.
This is differs from the existing complaints process which states:
Stage 1: Business unit response
The relevant head (or director) of the business unit will investigate matters and provide a response explaining their decision and, where appropriate, any recommendations or action required.
Stage 2: Chief Executive response
The Chief Executive will then review your original complaint and the response provided and will make a decision about whether or not matters have been dealt with appropriately.
The proposed complaints process appears to be critically different that the existing process as at appears to allow the relevant head (or director) of the business unit to “cop out” of the process. It appears to be proposed that it will be a public response manager (rather than the ‘relevant head (or director) of the business unit’) that will investigate and respond to complaints in future. It is only the ‘relevant head (or director) of the business unit’ will be uniquely qualified to assess the actions and possess the authority to make change where appropriate. A public response manager will not. We are a concerned that the inappropriate use of public response managers to deal with complaints is a misguided attempt to “shelter” the head (or director) of the business units from being accountable for actions within their departments.
There has been no publication or consultation of any proposed changes. It is worrying is that the so called “Residents commissioner” appears to have already sanctioned the proposed changes. It also worrying that we understand that HS2 Ltd have unilaterally implemented this new complaint process before it has been agreed and signed off by the DfT.
The existing complaints process is a critical and essential way that those who are worst affected by the HS2 project can hold HS2 Ltd to account. It is, in fact, in most cases, the only “check and balance” over the behaviour with which HS2 Ltd treats those unfortunate enough to be in the path of the HS2 project. The existing complaint process has already lead directly to the highly critical PHSO and PACAC reports.
Can you forward on this article to your MP and ask him/her to contact the Residents Commissioner, the Minister and the DfT about this as a matter of urgency, so any changes are properly examined before implementation.