Council phone answer delays ‘unacceptable’

Calling conundrum: Blackpool Town Hall and (below) Carmel McKeogh, deputy chief executive of Blackpool Council
Calling conundrum: Blackpool Town Hall and (below) Carmel McKeogh, deputy chief executive of Blackpool Council
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Blackpool residents are being left hanging on the telephone for nearly four minutes when they call the town hall, it has emerged.

Demands have been made for an improvement in the service - but bosses today blamed it on job cuts.

Carmel McKeogh - Blackpool Council

Carmel McKeogh - Blackpool Council

Coun Martin Mitchell told a meeting of the council’s Scrutiny Committee: “On average it takes three minutes 45 seconds for a person to get through to a member of council staff.

“It is an ongoing problem and there is no sign of it getting better.”

Coun Mitchell said he understood the service had been affected by job cuts, but he added: “I think resources have to be lined up from somewhere else.”

But Coun Jim Elmes defended the council’s record when compared to other organisations.

He said: “I phoned Sky, a multi-national company and I was 18 minutes waiting for an answer.”

Carmel McKeogh, deputy chief executive at the council, said the waiting times for calls to the town hall were “unacceptable” but said steps were being taken to ease the situation.

She said; “We have had a very significant cut in budget for staff for frontline services.

“We simply haven’t got the finance to go out and employ these staff at the moment.

“It is unacceptable but it is caused by cuts to services and an increase in the number of calls coming in.

“Steps are being put in place to remedy the situation.”

Cuts to the service have seen a reduction of 17 members of staff.

The council has to make savings of £36m by 2016.

Getting a Handel on it....

The Gazette’s JOSH HAMMOND tried himself to get through to the council...and was left frustrated.

We called the council’s customer services 12 times throughout the course of the day yesterday.

We were bombarded by Handel’s Water Music and numerous attempts to try to divert the call to another number.

We found that the average hold time was three minutes and 47 seconds.

However, once the phone call was received it only took a further 60 seconds to get simple queries resolved often without the need for a transfer.

Our average call time for 10 calls was four minutes 45 seconds.

There were two phone calls that went completely unanswered and the phone line was cut dead after three minutes.

First thing in the morning and lunch time were the worst times for being held for in excess of five minutes, with one call taking eight minutes to answer.