Complaints ‘invaluable’ insists SBC chief Logan

No fewer than 283 complaints lodged against Scottish Borders Council by members of the public in the 12 months to March 31 were upheld.

Councillors heard this week that they were among 742 grievances received by the local authority over the year – a rise of 11% on 2013/14.

Of that total, the bulk of which were submitted by telephone or online, 619 were deemed valid. Invalid complaints included demands for compensation, insurance claims and first-time requests for a council service.

The nature of the valid gripes was not detailed in a report to the meeting of SBC’s executive when the definition of a complaint was given as “any expression of dissatisfaction about our action or lack of action or about the standard of service provided by us, e.g. delays in responding to enquiries, failure to provide a service, treatment by or attitude of a member of staff and failure to follow proper procedure”.

However, chief executive Tracey Logan said information gathered from complaints was “invaluable” and cited two examples where this had led to a change in council policy.

The first related to the practice of all phone calls from the council being received as “withheld” or “unknown” and the plight of a customer, who had arranged with his provider to block cold calls, who frequently had to rely on a council department ringing him back.

“After investigation it was found staff members were not aware that a code could be entered before dialing which would release the number to the customer,” said the report.

“This information has been publicised widely on internal newsletters and websites to ensure all staff members are aware of the code.”

The second case involved a resident who, in 2013, received a standard letter from the council to say he/she was no longer entitled to Single Occupancy Discount (SOD).

In January, the customer applied for Second Adult Rebate (SAR) and asked for this to be backdated to when SOD was halted, only to be advised that the rebate could only be backdated for three months from the date of application.

“The customer complained that if the first letter had given details of SAR, the customer would have applied for it at that time,” stated the report. “On reviewing the wording, it was found it did not signpost customers to the rebate. As a result, information on SAR is now in the standard letter.”

Ms Logan told councillors: “We pride ourselves in providing high quality services to our communities, but also on our ability to respond quickly and effectively when, occasionally, we get things wrong.”