John Findlay (Service Manager (Business & Customer Support People) informed the committee that report covered the last three years of feedback following structure and staff changes. The report’s purpose was to summarise the volume of feedback that was received across the organisation and the reason for the complaints, trends, volume of the cases that had been forwarded to the Local Government Ombudsman and provide information captured on the systems. During the 2020/21 financial year, the volume of feedback (complaints, questions, and compliments) increased by 20%. There were 1322 complaints, which was an increase of 16% from 19/20 and over 25% more than 18/19. 73.1% were managed internally with 70% being resolved within the allocated timescales. 77% of comments were submitted digitally which was up from 70% in the previous two years, the communities directorate received 89% of it’s feedback digitally. 69% of complaints received were because of communication issues, other complaints were about the physical environment and service standards. A new complaints manager was appointed in January 2021 who was working with the directorates and the reason why a complaint was received; all the directorates were engaging well.
Councillor Sinclair expressed his mixed views of the report’s contents. He queried how much of the feedback was complaints and how many individuals provided feedback in Warwickshire. He noted that all feedback was useful to improve services but the report did not provide details of the complaint causes which meant it was not known what the issue was. The cost caused by council errors was not included and neither was an explanation to the complaint increase or the ‘financial remedy’. He concluded that digital complaints may not be good for people who do not have a computer and there was no detail on the policies that had been changed.
John Findlay noted that a lot of these issues were caused by their current feedback system which will be amended when the separate complaints system is fully implemented in 12-18 months. They could report on data, not insight and there was a national trend of complaints increasing, there were some repeat complainers. It was confirmed that a report would be brought back to the committee after the new systems were implemented.
Councillor Chilvers supported Councillor Sinclair’s comments and added that residents get frustrated when information is withheld from them or the department they are consulting with, get too defensive. He stated that there had been historical issues when the complaints team supported the complainer but the department who had the complaint made against them were not engaging with them.
John Findlay concurred with this issue of defensiveness and they were working on making sure all departments engaged better with the complaints team.
In response to Councillor Humphreys, John Findlay stated that more complaints were received nationally because people were more fraught and aware on how to complain. He concluded this was good so they would know what the issues were.
Councillor Butlin concurred with this as it was the only way to improve the council.
The Chair noted that the report will evolve and the OSC will engage when needed.
That the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee comment on the content of the WCC Corporate Customer Feedback overview report.