Slight fall in complaints about Rotherham Council

COMPLAINTS about Rotherham Council have dipped by two per cent - but compliments are down 20 per cent.

However, bosses believe the decrease in positive comments was actually staff not formally recording the feedback.

Assistant chief executive Shokat Lal said: “The number of compliments was significantly lower. It’s very difficult to get a breakdown on why this is the case.

“We don’t think people have stopped complimenting us. It’s important that our workforce knows that people do come forward in terms of giving compliments.

“I think a lot of that has been to do with reporting, where officers, for one reason or another, have taken a compliment, had an email or letter, but then decided not to report that formally.”

Compliments dropped from 1,064 to 844 while complaints dipped from 1,304 to 1,275, according to RMBC’s annual report for the year ending March.

Housing was the department with the biggest number of complaints (439), while finance and corporate services saw the largest increase, from 87 to 129.

A £400,000 budget reduction saw a third of the contact centre staff lost, which caused problems when residents were signing up for garden waste bins.

Finance and corporate services director Judith Badger said temporary resources had been brought in but a new system would be introduced soon.

“One of the significant issues was the garden waste,” she added. “It was a great success in terms of online sign-ups, but many of the complaints are related to delays in getting through to having queries answered. 

“We hadn’t pre-empted the demand in advance so we were behind the curve and didn’t have enough people to deal with it.”

The new computer system - set to launch this autumn - will allow customers to track their problem online, removing the need to ring up multiple times for updates.

Ms Badger said: “They will phone in, which clogs up the lines, and say: ‘I asked for something last week and haven’t had it yet. Can you tell me where we are at?’

“We will be enabling people to log in to track and trace their request or issue, so that hopefully they don’t have to get in touch with us personally.”

Opposition group leader Cllr Allen Cowles said: “I’m pleased to see we’re learning from the experience of [police phone service] 101.

“Out in the field, that’s what people come and complain to me about: the delays. The fact that we’re learning from that is good.”

Cllr Saghir Alam, cabinet member for finance and corporate services, said the complaints report was a positive tool to help the council learn and improve.

Cllr Bob Walsh added: “Everything that comes in as a complaint needs to be seen as an improvement opportunity.”

Overall, 87 per cent of complaints were responded to within target times, up from 79 per cent in 2017/18.