by Nick Lillitos
A confession this week from Maidstone council – its computer systems can’t cope with your complaints.
And the number of complaints has shot up in the last year – from 288 to 408, according to the most recent figures.
The figures reveal that the most common complaints are about housing development, waste and environmental issues.
But in a case of computer says no – the report adds “the current complaints IT software is not functioning properly.”
The council’s inadequate system has resulted in failure to deal with some public grouses within ten days – the council’s own set standard of answering.
Now a new system is being installed to crack the problem and it should be up and running buy the end of the month.
“An extensive training exercise is under way to ensure all users of the system will be fully competent by the time it goes live,” says the report.
It reveals that 408 complaints were received during the 12 months ending March this year, with just 89% answered in time.
In 2010-2011, the council received 288 complaints and 90% of these were answered within 10 days.
The best year was 2009-2010, when the council had 284 complaints and replied to 96% of them in the set time.
The council’s latest gloomy figures are in sharp contrast to the annual report from the Ombudsman, who can be called on as a last resort for settling issues.
The ombudsman commented: “I am pleased to say that I have no concerns about your authority’s response times, and there are no issues arising from the complaints that I want to bring to your attention.”
The highest number of complaints received by the council focused on housing development decisions (85), followed by waste services (83) and environment issues (56).
Compensation paid out in the last financial year, due to poor communication by the council, totalled £900.