Confusion has been raised over how a council registers complaints made by members of the public.
It comes after councillors in Wrexham voiced their surprise that only four formal complaints were registered against controversial litter enforcement firm Kingdom last year despite personally receiving a large number of concerns from residents.
There was also astonishment that only six highways complaints were received during the 2017/18 financial year after one member claimed he was contacted about potholes up to six times a day during the winter.
However, council officers revealed that the figures do not include standard pothole reports or the number of fixed penalty notices appealed by people fined for littering.
Figures released under a Freedom of Information request show 138 appeals were made against the £75 fines issued by Kingdom during the same time period .
Speaking at a meeting of Wrexham Council’s Customers, Performance, Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, Councillor Adrienne Jeorrett expressed her shock at the lack of complaints against the company.
She said: “In terms of Kingdom I note that there are only four complaints. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about them and it would certainly be more than four, so I was wondering how that is recorded.”
Meanwhile, Gwersyllt North councillor Barrie Warburton said he received a large number of calls about the state of Wrexham’s roads during the winter and asked why that was not reflected.
Customer Services Manager Helen Gerrard said the council has a three stage process for registering complaints and only those escalated to formal level were included in the report.
The local authority conducted 190 formal complaint investigations during 2017/18, 73 of which concerned missed bin collections.
There were also 424 informal complaints, although no breakdown of the nature of them was given.
Ms Gerrard said: “The first stage of the process would be when someone reports a service failure, such as reporting a pothole.
“Then it goes to the informal stage, where if someone has reported it and after a while we’ve still not done anything, then the department is given the opportunity to sort it.
“It would only become a formal complaint when someone is still not happy.
“In terms of Kingdom, if it involves an appeal against a Fixed Penalty Notice it falls outside of the corporate complaints procedure and the environment department deals with it as an appeal.
“If they put in a complaint about the process or someone’s attitude then that would come to corporate complaints.”
Councillors said they feared the process was too confusing and that residents who thought they had complained may not have had it registered as such.
Cllr Geoff Lowe said he was unhappy with the ‘pecking order’ which exists.
He said: “It’s not in the best interests of the people of Wrexham if they don’t understand that.
“If they call up and say ‘I’d like to make a complaint’ and we say it’s a first contact then it’s not fair. We need to communicate that to them.”
Ms Gerrard said that whenever a problem is reported it will always be addressed, but the procedure for it to be made a formal complaint is set at a national level.
She said: “We would never say to anyone that it’s not a complaint and whatever the problem they raise, we treat them all the same.
“If it was a pothole, for example, we would get environment to check it out and fill it, or if not then we would explain why.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
Top pic, a fineworthy piece of litter.
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