Lee Henley presented the report that set out the Council’s complaints statistics for the period April 2020 to September 2020 with the number of complaints received for the reporting period being 520 and compared to the same period last year had represented a reduction in the number of complaints received. That a total of 155 MP enquiries had been received, of which 89% had been responded to within the timeframe with the volume of member enquiries received into the Council had remained high and was increasing. A total of 2018 member enquiries had been received within the reporting period, with 95% responded to within timeframe. The Council had also received 402 external compliments within the reporting period compared to 281 during last year.
Councillor Potter raised his concerns with complaints from residents who had used the online report function but were not happy with the response and questioned whether this was due to staff working from home who may not be having the same interaction. Councillor Potter continued to state that Thurrock residents were his main priority and this should remain as a firm footing for the future. Lee Henley stated that 99% of complaints came through the digital channel and when residents were not happy with their complaint response this would be escalated in-line with the complaints process. Lee Henley stated the issue he was referring to was encouraging residents to raise any service requests via our on-line facilities, as in-dong so they should receive a quicker response to that of a member enquiry.
Councillor Collins congratulated officers on the compliments received.
Councillors Collins stated that Members were the first port of call for residents when they needed to raise issues or concerns and it was just as easy for Members to raise these themselves. Councillor Collins referred to two complaints that had taken over a month for a response to which Lee Henley stated there were clear complaint deadlines in place and responses should not take a month. Lee Henley asked for Councillor Collins to send these two complaints to him to review. Lee Henley agreed that Members would always be there as an escalation point to assist residents, if they were unhappy with responses to issues raised via our on-line reporting facilities, and these would be logged as either a complaint or a member enquiry.
Councillor Collins questioned whether with staff working from home had an impact on the efficiency of some of the systems that were in place before COVID and whether a performance review had been undertaken. Councillor Collins also questioned when it was likely that staff would be back to working in the offices again. Sean Clark stated the Council was waiting on the lockdown rollout to go through and advice from that would come from Public Health England and the Council’s Director of Public Health. That before COVID the Council had already started several years ago to look at reducing the size of office space and looking for staff to work from home more often. That this had also been the direction of travel and once COVID had passed it would not return to how it had been but had accelerated that direction of travel.
Lisa Laybourn referred to the compensation section of the report and that all compensations paid out were at ombudsman level and questioned whether there had been a cost to the ombudsman reviewing the cases and whether any financial remedy would be offered before it got to that stage. Lee Henley stated that compensation is offered to residents as part of our complaints process and prior to cases going to the Ombudsman, but not within this six month period.
1. That Members noted the statistics and performance for the reporting period.
2. That Members would encourage residents to report (where possible) their concerns by using our online reporting facilities.