Complaint response times under review

Fly-tipping and complaints to the environment services team feature heavily in this year's figures
Fly-tipping and complaints to the environment services team feature heavily in this year's figures

COUNCIL officers may shift the goalposts when it comes to complaint response times in Wigan due to difficulties with the system.

The move has been suggested in a report set to be discussed by the town hall’s audit committee this week.

The report states “it is becoming increasingly difficult for officers to respond within the current timeframe” which is 10 days.

Instead, the deadline to respond to complaints from the public may be extended to 15 days, which is standard in other local authorities, the report adds.

In total the number of complaints received about council services in 2014/15 fell from 1,131 the previous year to 835.

Of those, 69 per cent were responded to within the 10-day timeframe, up two per cent from the previous year.

The report claims the improvement has been the result of staff restructuring the corporate complaints procedure.

A majority of grievances were with the town hall’s environment services (263), which oversees waste disposal teams and fly-tipping incidents, and the customer transformation department (320), which manages revenue collection, benefits and citizen support.

A breakdown of the reasons behind the complaints shows 32 per cent were due to quality of service provided, 29 because of a delay in service delivery, 17 due to a decision made and 13 were sparked by staff behaviour.

And of 37 cases passed on to the local government ombudsman, 12 were upheld.

The report states: “As a council we are clear that complaint numbers on their own can only form part of the picture of how the process is performing and other factors such as outcomes and how organisations have learned from the complaints are also crucial.

“A higher number of complaints, for example, does not necessarily mean poorer standards of service.

“It may indicate a council’s open approach to listening to feedback and using complaints as an early indicator of potential issues.”

In 2014, the town hall combined the complaints procedure so that corporate, Freedom of Information, data protection, adult social care and councillor standards complaints were dealt with by the same team.

The report concludes: “The council’s approach by bringing together the various strands has been a positive step and shows a strong commitment to complaint management and the integration of learning into its strategic planning.

“Although at the early stages in the development the aim is create a centre of excellence to advise and support the organisation on complaints and information governance.”