15th Nov, 2018

Coventry council up for local government award despite record number of complaints

Felix Nobes 7th Nov, 2018 Updated: 7th Nov, 2018

Coventry City Council has been shortlisted for a local government award despite a record number of complaints being registered with a national watchdog last year.

The ‘prestigious’ annual ‘Council of the Year’ prize recognises excellence in the public sector.

But the annual report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) for 2017/18 has revealed a 30 per cent increase in complaints on the year before.

A total of 136 complaints about the council represents the highest figure since records began in 2005, and comes after three years of declining rates.

Environmental services, including waste collection, saw complaints double and education and children’s services rose from 17 to 29.

Investigations were launched into 26 of the 136 complaints lodged last year, and just over three quarters (77 per cent) were upheld by the LGSCO due to potential council fault.

This is also the highest percentage of complaints upheld for Coventry since 2005 and dwarfs the national (57 per cent) and regional (62 per cent) averages.

Nine complaints resulted in some form of payout – totalling a £7,000 cost to the taxpayer.

Half the complaints investigated were related to household waste collections.

The report emerged the same week the council was praised by judges at the Local Government Chronicle Awards

The council said it gained recognition for its successes in ‘partnership working’ for securing UK City of Culture 2021 and European City of Sport 2019.

It also praised the council for providing services such as libraries and youth provision.

Council leader George Duggins said: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award.

“It recognises our hard work to provide quality services and balanced budgets even at a time of severe budget cuts from central government.

“Partnership working also helped us secure new investment and jobs for our city, including being selected through the £80million Faraday Challenge as the home of a new Battery Industrialisation Centre that will further cement our role as a world leader in low emission vehicles and driverless technologies.”

The LGSCO is the final stage for complaints about councils and it can launch independent probes into complaints and provide a means of redress to individuals for injustice caused by service failure, the report states.

A Coventry City Council spokesperson said: “We take every complaint very seriously.

“In total, only 20 complaints were upheld by the Ombudsman. To put this into context, we collect more than 900,000 bins a month and collect Council Tax from 140,000 properties.

“Demand for vital services continues to increase and last year in Children’s Services we worked with around 4,500 children and their families at any one time and received more than 10,000 requests for support in adult social care.

“We apologise if anyone feels they have not received the high standard of service we always aim to deliver.”

Opposition Conservative leader Gary Ridley said: “A rising number of complaints about waste and fly tipping means many Coventrians will be left wondering how this failing Labour administration can win this award.

“Even in these difficult times Conservatives have identified £3million in savings which would allow us to invest an extra £1.3million to tackle fly-tipping.”

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