Hundreds complain about Notts councils

Adult social care was the biggest cause of complaints.
Adult social care was the biggest cause of complaints.

More than 300 people have made formal complaints about their councils in Nottinghamshire, new figures reveal.

Last year, there were 302 complaints made to the ombudsman about the eight local councils.

Of these, 39 were upheld, meaning the council was at fault.

Complaints upheld included one mum who felt she had been discriminated against by Nottingham City Council after being the victim of honour-based violence, and another woman who said Nottinghamshire County Council had unfairly stopped her from seeing her adult son.

Most of the complaints were about the city and county councils, partly because they are responsible for adult social care.

The council which received the least complaints was Gedling Borough Council – and none of the eight complaints against it were upheld.

The figures were released by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, who independently investigates complaints.

It showed there were 103 complaints about Nottingham City Council, and 102 about Nottinghamshire County Council.

The majority of these were not upheld.

Most are dealt with by “local resolution”, meaning the ombudsman asks the complainant and the council to settle the matter between them.

About 100 complaints were dismissed outright.

But 39 complaints were upheld, meaning the ombudsman found the council was at fault.

When this happens, the ombudsman has the power to instruct councils on how to remedy the situation.

In each case, a public report is published by the ombudsman explaining exactly what went wrong and what needs to happen to ensure the wrongdoing is not repeated.

Michael King, the ombudsman, said: “The raw data included in our report can only tell a part of the story – the wider outcomes from the complaints we receive are far more important than the numbers.

“For a long time, we’ve been pressing just how important complaints can be as a learning tool for local authorities – and a great source of free feedback about the health of the services they provide.

“We know being on the receiving end of an upheld complaint can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly in these difficult times.

“But this year, we’ve seen some positive examples of councils taking on board our recommendations, making root and branch reviews of their services and putting in place changes that will help many more than just the person who originally came to us.”

Councillor Bruce Laughton is the chairman of the county council’s governance and ethics committee, which voluntarily publishes details of each upheld decision, and discusses each one in public meetings.

He said: “We take all complaints extremely seriously and always try to learn lessons and make improvements.

“As part this commitment, the committee began publishing and scrutinising all ombudsman decisions from last year.

“While there is no obligation for local authorities to do this, it has helped us make tangible improvements to our services and we believe is in the best interests of transparency and open government.

“The council tries to resolve complaints locally and amicably, but sometimes the third-party involvement of the Local Government Ombudsman is either the only way or the best way of arriving at a fair outcome.”

Coun John Clarke, Gedling Borough Council leader, said: “We’re very pleased with the ombudsman figures.

“We introduced a more thorough process to analyse the root problem of complaints and to better understand the issues affecting our residents.

“We’ve made sure we are listening to resident’s concerns and addressing their issues. It is working and we will continue to improve on these very positive results.”

Coun Jane Urquhart, city council lead member for customer services, said: “The council is committed to resolving issues locally and promptly with our citizens when they arise.  

“At the heart of this is our Have Your Say service, a two-tier complaints procedure where customers can raise concerns about issues which matter to them and we’ll investigate straight away.  

“We offer an independent review if the customer is not satisfied with our initial response and through this process we have made significant reductions both to cases referred to the ombudsman and the numbers of cases upheld by them.

“The success of this is borne out by these latest LGO figures which show just 27 per cent of complaints relating to the council were upheld last year. This compares with a figure of 57 per cent nationally and is well below most other big cities of our size.

“This clearly indicates we are good at resolving issues at a local level without the need for the LGO to become involved. Indeed, the number of complaints upheld by the LGO in Nottingham for 2017-18 is down by half on 2016-17.”

The figures in full for 2017-18

Ashfield District Council – Received 15 Upheld 1

Bassetlaw District Council – Received 17 Upheld 3

Broxtowe Borough Council – Received 10 Upheld 0

Gedling Borough Council – Received 8 Upheld 0

Mansfield District Council – Received 16 Upheld 3

Newark and Sherwood District Council – Received 20 Upheld 0

Nottingham City Council – Received 103 Upheld 4

Nottinghamshire County Council – Received 102 Upheld 25

Rushcliffe Borough Council – Received 11 Upheld 3