No fewer than 283 complaints lodged against the council by members of the public in the 12 months to March 31 were upheld.
SBC councillors heard this week they were among 742 grievances received by the local authority over the year – a rise of 11% on 2013/14. Of that total, the bulk of which were submitted by telephone or online, 619 were deemed valid. Invalid complaints included demands for compensation, insurance claims and first-time requests for a council service.
Chief executive Tracey Logan said information gathered from complaints was “invaluable” and cited two examples where this had led to a change in council policy.
The first related to the practice of all telephone calls from the council being received as “withheld” or “unknown” and the plight of a customer, who had arranged with his provider to block cold calls, who frequently had to rely on a council department ringing him back.
“After investigation it was found staff members were not aware that a code could be entered before dialing which would release the number to the customer,” said the report. This information has now been publicised widely on internal newsletters and websites to ensure all staff members are aware of the code.”
The second case involved a resident who, in 2013, received a standard letter from the council to say he/she was no longer entitled to Single Occupancy Discount (SOD).
In January this year, the customer applied for Second Adult Rebate (SAR) and asked for this to be backdated to when SOD was halted, only to be advised that the rebate could only be backdated for three months from the date of application.
The report stated: “The customer complained that if the first letter had given details of SAR, the customer would have applied for it at that time. On reviewing the wording of the standard letter, it was found it did not signpost customers to the rebate. As a result, information on SAR is now included in the standard letter.”
Ms Logan said: “We pride ourselves in providing high quality services, but also on our ability to respond quickly and effectively when, occasionally, we get things wrong.”