Callers kept on hold to Wigan Council for half an hour

One caller stuck it out for more than 55 minutes
One caller stuck it out for more than 55 minutes

Thousands of Wiganers have been left waiting on hold for more than half an hour to speak to someone at the council, according to new figures.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that 7,665 people in a 12-month period from April 2018 to March 2019 waited on the line for more than 30 minutes after telephoning the town hall or its various departments.

This number increased to more than 26,000 for people hanging on the line between 20 and 30 minutes and almost 75,000 for those who waited in a queue for more than 10 minutes.

The figures, released by the council, showed that 45.4 per cent of calls exceeded the four-minute deadline each year.

There was no data available to show how this has changed compared to the previous 12 months.

However the figures did reveal a large drop in “abandoned calls” during that period.

In 2017/2018, 105,900 people hung up before speaking to anyone but this dropped 34 per cent to 69,971 the following year.

For the more persistent callers, the longest wait time on record for an answer this year was a whopping 55 minutes and 50 seconds!

Data varied across months, with the largest number of callers waiting for longer than half an hour in March (2,028) compared to July (215).

Lesley O’Halloran, Wigan Council’s assistant director for customer services, said: “Despite large budgetary cuts over recent years - the corporate centre continues to handle telephone enquiries for 22 different services many of which are complex and sensitive.

“Customer service officers are trained to deliver resolution at the first point of contact for our residents rather than a simplistic message-taking service.

“Helping to ensure that they only need to make one call to resolve their queries, prioritising customer needs over the time taken to resolve a query.

“We are always looking to improve our service and have achieved a reduction in our call waiting times over the last two years in addition to bringing in new initiatives such as web chat and a queue buster service where customers can request a call back during busier periods.

“Improvements made to the service have led to average call waiting times being reduced by two minutes and six seconds and the increased use of our updated online offering have lead to the number of enquiries falling from 445,000 to 396,000 compared with the previous year.

Ms O’Halloran added:“It is important to note that the number of abandoned calls includes those where residents find the information they need from our front end messages or alternatively decide to go online and self-serve digitally in line with The Deal.”