New Parliamentary Complaints Manager faces a tough challenge ahead says complaints experts

Sun 19th May 2013

Charter UK has welcomed the news that Parliament is to hire a dedicated Complaints Manager to handle constituent concerns about MPs but has voiced concerns about how the role will work in principle. 

The full-time official will work under the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, who ensures MPs follow their code of conduct and investigates claims they have not.

However Paul Clark, CEO of Charter UK, points out that with mistrust of MPs running high since the expenses scandal, whoever fills the role will face a number of challenges unless they are given certain powers. 

"The public is notoriously good at regulating others, but not regulating itself, so it's good to see the Government taking a proactive approach by appointing a dedicated 'complaints manager' to handle complaints against MPs," he says. 

"Although this decision shows an understanding of the need for complete transparency in government affairs, hiring just one individual to be in charge of complaints against more than 650 MPs, each with around 80,000 constituents is simply not enough - and thus raises a number of concerns."

Mr Clark says that Westminster needs to 'think ahead' and look at how much power will this individual have and whether he or she will be able to hand out punishments or fines to MPs. 

"As with the NHS complaints review that followed the Mid-Staffs crisis, will government workers be listened to when complaining about MPs?" He asks. "Will complaints data be published in the same way that the FCA regulates the banking industry? Or will this just be a box-ticking exercise that offers no real resolution?"

He also pushed for transparency, echoing the model seen in the financial services arena with publishing of complaints data. "Taxpayers have a right to visibility of the complaints being directed to their MPs, and this is something that the Government's new complaints manager should ensure is put into practice." He insists.

"However, best practice complaints management requires more than hiring someone to look at this issue: it's also about getting the supporting technology and processes right. In order to gain the maximum benefit from this new role, the Government will need to ensure that its new complaints manager has the right people, processes and systems in place to perform this important job properly."