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Colchester Borough Council – Annual Complaints report 2020/2021

This report gives an overview of the formal complaints received by the Council in the financial year 2020/2021 and how we have dealt with them.

IN THIS ARTICLE

Introduction

This report gives an overview of the formal complaints received by the Council in the financial year 2020/2021 and how we have dealt with them. Informal feedback is also often received directly by Service Areas but will not be included for the purposes of this report due to the ad-hoc nature of the feedback received.

Complaint reporting summaries are also provided to Senior Management twice a year. In addition, staff and managers can access up-to-date reporting on the Council’s internal complaint monitoring SharePoint site as and when required.

Colchester Borough Council strives to deliver the best possible value and service to its residents and to deliver that service right first time. We understand the importance of feedback and are committed to ensuring we use it to maintain, enhance or improve our services and culture.

Ensuring we help customers in every way possible to access our services is very important to us. Part of this is making sure all our customers receive a consistent and appropriate level of service in all of their interactions with the Council, no matter who they are. To do so, we have a set of Customer Service Standards that outlines the minimum expectations for our staff:
  • Be welcoming, fair, responsive and courteous
  • Actively listen to our customers and use feedback to meet their needs and improve our services and products
  • Have professional, well-informed staff, who take pride in what they do
  • Let customers know what we can provide and what they should expect
  • Get it right for our customers and do the best we can
  • Make sure everyone has easy, equal access to our services
  •  Communicate in plain language and avoid jargon
  • Respect customer’s right to privacy and confidentiality
 

Why we produce this report

  • To learn from our mistakes so that we can improve our services.
  • To encourage people who have reason to complain to share their feedback to help us make these improvements.
  • To show how we’ve responded to complaints and what we’ve done to try to put things right.
  • To explain and publicise our complaints process.
 

Our complaints procedure

We have a 2-stage process for handling complaints. This gives customers the opportunity to have their complaint reviewed by more senior levels of management if they are not satisfied with our initial response. If, having followed both stages of our complaint process, the customer is still not satisfied with our response or they are not happy with the way we have handled their complaint, they can contact the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman.


What is a complaint?

  • Dissatisfaction with our policies
  • Failure by the Council or its employees to respond to a reported problem
  • Failure to provide adequate standards of service
  • Delay or failure to provide a service
  • Dissatisfaction with an employee’s behaviour or attitude
 

What is not a complaint?

  • Routine or day to day issues that can be easily resolved
  • Reporting a problem or requesting a service for the first time
  • A request for information or explanation of policies or procedures
  • Cases where other rights of appeal exist such as refusal of planning permission
  • Complaints to Colchester Borough Council in 2020/21: summary
 

Total number of complaints received

In 2020/21 we received a total of 890 formal complaints which was an increase from the previous year’s total of 579. The covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly had an impact on the amount of feedback received as some areas were only able to provide a limited service due to covid-19 restrictions.

To add some context, Advisors in the Contact and Support call centre dealt with 42,424 calls during 2020/21. The number of complaints received is low in relation to the overall volume of customer contacts received by the Council.


Proportion resolved at Stage 1 and Stage 2

There were 30 complaints which progressed to stage 2 in 2020/21 which means that 97% of complaints received were resolved at stage 1. The previous year’s figure was the same, at 97% resolved at stage 1.


Proportion resolved within the target timescale

Our timescale for carrying out an investigation and contacting customers with a complaint outcome is 28 days.

In 2020/21, 94% of complaints were resolved within the timescale, which is an improvement on the 73% of complaints resolved within time in the previous year 2019/20.
 
2020/21 – Answered in time 2019/20 – Answered in time
 

Overview of trends and themes

Rubbish and Recycling complaints was the top area for complaints in 2020/21, which is consistent with previous years. Most of these were about missed collections. The table below shows the top 5 Service Areas which received complaints across the Council.
 

Top 5 complaint areas

Service Area and No. of complaints 2020/21
  • Rubbish & Recycling (565)
  • Parking (134)
  • Planning & Building Control - Planning Applications (30)
  • Street Care and Public Open Spaces (29)
  • Council Tax (17)


Top 5 complaint themes

Theme and No. of complaints 2020/21
  • Missed collection (bins/recycling/assisted) (307)
  • Conduct of staff (130)
  • Customer service (64)
  • Penalty Charge Notice (50)
  • Planning application/decision (31)


Learning from complaints

As part of our complaints closing process, Officers record any improvement requirements which 
have been identified. Some of these improvements may be relatively fundamental, such as 
reminders to staff about the Councils expectations, where standards have fallen below what is 
expected. Other improvements will be of greater significance, resulting in an operational change 
within a service and therefore a better experience for customers in the future. 

Here are some examples of the service improvements identified in 2020/21:

As part of our complaints closing process, Officers record any improvement requirements which have been identified. Some of these improvements may be relatively fundamental, such as reminders to staff about the Councils expectations, where standards have fallen below what is expected. Other improvements will be of greater significance, resulting in an operational change within a service and therefore a better experience for customers in the future.

Customer
  • Improved content of allotment renewal letters and changed website URL to make it more user friendly.
Environment 
  • Working to introduce a better online reporting system for tree enquiries on our website.
Sport and Leisure
  • Amendments made to membership terminology to make this clearer to understand.
Planning
  • Review carried out of policy on publication of planning appeal related correspondence.

Parking

  • Redesign of website to make it more accessible for the user.
Parking
  • More signs installed in Mersea car park to aid paying by phone.


Local Government Ombudsman

In 2020/21, 15 complaints were received by the Local Government Ombudsman about Colchester Borough Council. Of these, none were progressed to be investigated by the LGO and therefore none were upheld. 5 were referred back to the Council for local resolution, 7 were closed after initial enquiries and 1 complaint received was incomplete or invalid. In comparison, in the previous year 2019/20, 20 complaints were received, 4 were investigated by the LGO, with 1 complaint being upheld.

View the full LGO report.


Compliments

In 2020/21, a total of 206 compliments were received across the Council, 51% of these being registered for Rubbish and Recycling. A breakdown of compliments is shown below. As mentioned earlier in this report, Service Areas will also receive informal compliments directly, which are not shown in these figures.

As a comparison, a total of 81 compliments were registered in 2019/20

 

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