South-west councils could soon be forced to broaden their definition of what a complaint is and publicly report the data annually under recommendations by the state ombudsman.
The state's 79 councils were surveyed by ombudsman Deborah Glass who found many understate the number of complaints they receive and don't deal with the issue properly.
"All too often complaints are seen as a nuisance, or provoke a defensive, unhelpful, bureaucratic response," Ms Glass said.
If someone rang a council and said their bin wasn't emptied only 34 per cent of councils would consider it a complaint as opposed to a "request for service", the ombudsman's report found.
Of the five councils in the south-west, Glenelg Shire reported the fewest number of complaints for 2018 - just 10, and they also only reported 150 requests for service.
However, the shire said there were ongoing issues separating a request for service and an actual complaint.
Warrnambool City reported 18 complaints from 28,638 requests for service.
Warrnambool's complaints were the second lowest of similar-sized regional city councils such as Horsham which reported just 12 compared to 56 in Wodonga, 154 in Wangaratta, 212 in Shepparton and 485 in Bendigo.
Corangamite Shire had 35 complaints from 21,001 requests for service, and Moyne reported 39 complaints from 4685 requests for service. Southern Grampians did not provide any complaints data.
Melbourne City Council said it received 88 complaints but one of the state's smallest shires Ararat Rural City Council in state's south-west received 1880.
"It is not a solution to disguise the true level of community dissatisfaction by labeling it as a 'request for service' or 'matter with a statutory right of appeal', instead of recognising is as a 'complaint'," Ms Glass said.
However, she said more councils now had policies for how complaints should be handled but many still needed to make their complaint system more accessible.
The Victorian government has accepted the ombudsman's recommendations which include legislative changes forcing councils to broaden the definition of what a complaint is and to publicly report their complaint data annually.
The report highlights a complaint about disability permits made to Warrnambool council as an example of one that let to service improvement.
As a result of a complaint about the requirement to undergo a medical assessment to renew a disabled parking permit, the process was simplified by adding a 'lifelong' disabled category with a reduced medical assessment requirement for renewals.
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