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More praise, fewer gripes for council ‘trying hard’

By Gemma Constable

Wheelie binsUnemptied bins and litter in the streets topped the Swale council complaints chart for 2011/12.

Gripes about refuse collection and street cleansing totalled 81 for the year.

Parking was the next biggest cause of grumbles tallying 48, narrowly beating planning wrangles which numbered 47.

There were 38 moans about revenues and benefits, 32 on housing, 17 about leisure and open spaces and 11 for the environmental response team.

Customer service and the new Gateway team received eight complaints, while those not falling in any particular category amounted to 27.

Overall the number of complaints was 309, down from 364 in 2010/11 and 393 in 2009/10.

The figures were included in an annual council report on complaints, compliments and comments. It was the third time yearly statistics had been recorded.

While disputes with the council decreased, compliments increased and were up to 330 from 126 in 2009/10 and 235 in 2010/11.

Council leader Cllr Andrew Bowles said he was pleasantly surprised.

Swale council leader Cllr Andrew Bowles“The general perception is everything is wrong in politics, so to have an annual review that says complaints are going down and positive comments going up, we must be getting something right.

“We have tried really hard to make back-office savings so, as far as possible, we did not hit services to the public.”

Last year, a residents’ survey revealed “a significant number” of people did not know how to formally complain to the council.

As a result, council correspondence sent to residents has referred to the complaints procedure and a “clear link” is featured on its website, where people can click on “comment or complain” on the homepage.

A new system for dealing with complaints, compliments and comments was introduced in 2010/11. It is said to have improved monitoring, so that lessons can be learned and issues dealt with promptly.

  • Anyone can contact the council online, by email to csc@swale.gov.uk, by phone on 01795 417850, by visiting any of the council offices or by writing to Customer Service Centre, Swale House, East Street, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10 3HT.
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