Fall in complaints to County Council

033649-1_Chi_CountyHall_LA''Chichester's County Hall.033649-1''Peter/Lou
033649-1_Chi_CountyHall_LA''Chichester's County Hall.033649-1''Peter/Lou
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Complaints to West Sussex County Council continued to fall during the past year - despite the furore over cuts in support for vulnerable adults.

County councillors were told the trend was ‘perhaps unexpected’ in a period when services were being restructured.

But a report presented at a meeting of the county’s standards committee on Wednesday June 27 said it might be that such a large amount of publicity was given to the reduction in the nationally available budget allocation that residents were ‘more accepting of change’ than they would otherwise be.

“However, for a number of service changes, such as the reassessment of adults’ care clients, the detailed planning that went into the process has also been a factor,” it added.

The report also said the reduction in complaints about adult social care changes could also be attributed to a new appeals system and to the statutory definition have removed the requirement to record verbal complaints resolved within 24 hours.

The number of complaints received at ‘stage one’ of the complaint process fell from 801 to 639 during 2011-2012.

The number upheld, or partly upheld, dropped from 264 to 190.

However, complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman against the county council in the same period of time rose from 119 to 129. The number of these determined rose from 70 to 81.

Out of those, complaints about the council’s adult social services was highest at 38, followed by children’s social services at 18, education had 13 complaints, highways 10, housing one and two comaplaints were about planning.

The report said the amount paid to complainants in compensation in 2010-11 was high because of a single decision which resulted in a backdated payment to an adults’ services customer.

As a result, a 60 per cent drop, from £31,013 in 2010-11 to £12,364 in 2011-12, was in line with expectations.

At the same time as the overall fall in recorded complaints, the number of compliments increased to 1,005 from the previous year’s high of 842. This was mainly thanks to the library service more than doubling its contribution.

The total number of complaints about adults’ and children’s services fell from 476 to 331, and about community services - which include highways and transport, libraries, registration, trading standards and fire and rescue - from 286 to 255. For ‘customers and change’, the figure remained the same at 18.

Complaints about legal and democratic services rose from six to seven and about finance and performance from 15 to 22.

There were three complaints relating to public health, well-being and safeguarding and complaints which were not about a specific service rose from zero to three.