Agenda item

Annual Compliments and Complaints Report 2022-23

To consider a report of the Assistant Chief Executive.


To receive a report outlining the complaints and compliments that the Council received in the period 1st April 2022-31st March 2023, highlighting key themes and longer-term trends.



Members of Overview and Scrutiny Management Board are asked to:


1.  Note the Annual Compliments and Complaints Report for 2022/23.

2.  Provide comments on areas that require further improvement regarding complaints handling and reporting.



The Chair invited the Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Finance and Community Safety to introduce the report. The report gave an overview of compliments and complaints received in 2022-23 and provided a comparison with trends and performance over the previous five years. It was outlined that understanding complaints and compliments was important to the Council to help it learn about how it dealt with customers and where improvements could be made to ensure that services were delivered in a fair and equitable manner. The Cabinet Member welcomed feedback from OSMB on the content and format of the report.


The Assistant Chief Executive welcomed representatives from each of the directorates to address service specific questions. The Assistant Chief Executive gave a short presentation outlining the direction of travel for complaints over the past 5 years. It was noted that following feedback from the Board a greater emphasis has been placed on the themes emerging from complaints, actions taken and the impact that this has had on trends. It was noted that the Covid 19 pandemic had reduced the numbers received between 2020 - 2022. However, in 2022-23 the numbers returned to slightly above pre pandemic levels.


Most Directorates saw an increase in the numbers of complaints. 280 more complaints were received in 2022/23, which was an increase of 25%. 175 more complaints were upheld (proportionately this is a significant increase on the previous year with 32% of all complaints upheld compared to 24% last year.


More complaints were received that were categorised as Quality of Service (31% of all complaints this year and 13% last year) and complaints categorised as Action of Staff decreased significantly. More compliments were received although it was noted that not all compliments may be passed on to the Complaints Team by staff. 


Performance has been maintained at 85% of complaint responses within target timescale. Whilst slightly below the 5-year average of 86%, this met the Council Plan target of 85%. There had been a continued effort made across all Council services to maintain performance to timescales, despite the increase in numbers received.


The Annual Review letter from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) was received on 19th July 2023, setting out their records of referred complaint investigations. In 2022/23 fewer complaints were investigated and upheld by the LGSCO than in the previous year, with 7 complaints investigated compared to 19. The decrease can be considered as a return to average numbers received following an unusually high number of enquiries investigated in the previous year (an effect of the Covid 19 pandemic). Overall, the Annual Review letter presented a positive view of the Council’s handling of formal complaints in 2022/23. The number of investigations decreased significantly, but the upheld rate was slightly above average.  There were no Public Interest Reports in this year.


It was noted that the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman had recently launched a consultation with the Housing Ombudsman on a Joint Complaints Handling Code. Subject to the outcome of the consultation and the final published Code, a self-assessment would be undertaken and as a result a revised policy developed for consideration.


The Chair invited questions from members of the Board and a discussion on the following issues ensued:


·      How consistency in response to customer complaints was approached. It was outlined that there was a comprehensive programme of staff development to understand the customer experience.

·      The efforts to capture trends, compliments and complaints and reflect the learning that had taken place was welcomed.

·      Given the changes since the pandemic, whether a more appropriate baseline for measurement should be established.

·      Engagement with local communities to build relationship and confidence.

·      How complaints and the customer experience were captured in commissioned or contracted services (for example bereavement services). What was being done to measure performance and quality in those areas? It was outlined that repairs services were included in the Council’s complaints processes. However, there were other contracted services for example leisure services and bereavement services who had responsibility for complaints through their contractual arrangements.

·      It was recognised that for some people it was difficult to complain so it was important to deal with feedback sensitively and evidence that feedback had been acted upon.

·      It was noted that the number of complaints was relatively small compared with the volume of interactions that took place across each of the directorates.

·      It was outlined that there was a greater focus on resolving complaints as early as possible.

·      Feedback from councillors and referral through surgery reports and how this intelligence could be used to improve customer service.

·      If councillors could attend a staff development session with housing workers to demonstrate what training is offered. It was confirmed that this could be arranged.

·      What was the financial cost to uphold complaints, conduct investigations and pay compensation? It was confirmed that these figures would be circulated to members.

·      It was noted that there was a trend that the number of women complainants had risen, particularly in regards of Regeneration and Environment and Housing. It was noted that since equalities monitoring had been introduced there had been a greater number of female complainants compared with men. However, it was difficult to ascertain if there were any emerging trends.

·       It was highlighted that good communications (for example about missed refuse collections) may mitigate future complaints. The Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment outlined that the service would welcome intelligence to improve services and improve the customer journey.


In summary, the Head of Democratic Services outlined comments in relation to staff training and factoring in lessons learnt from complaints.


The request for councillors to be invited to a staff development session in relation to council tenants was noted, as was the request for further details of the financial impact of complaints to be circulated.




1.    That the Annual Compliments and Complaints Report for 2022/23 be noted.


2.    That comments on areas that require further improvement regarding complaints handling and reporting be provided.



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