Working from home blamed as calls to council 'not being answered' - but number of complaints is down

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Residents have to contend with background noise from “radios, boiling kettles and children” when they phone Blackpool Council, it has been claimed – due to the high number of staff working from home.

Coun Julie Sloman says members of the public are fed up of not being able to get through to council departments when they need to raise an issue, and blamed it on many staff still working from home.

It comes as the latest annual customer feedback report for 2022/23 shows 1,153 feedback items recorded – with around half being complaints.

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Figures show there were 575 complaints, 309 compliments and 269 general comments from the public over the period of the report.

Coun Sloman says people are struggling to get through to the town hallCoun Sloman says people are struggling to get through to the town hall
Coun Sloman says people are struggling to get through to the town hall

The number of complaints has reduced by 26 per cent compared to the previous year – but waste services which includes street cleaning and bin collections – has been taken out of the survey since being moved into a separate company called Enveco.

Only 56 per cent of complaints were dealt with within the target of 10 working days, compared to 64 per cent in the previous year.

Coun Sloman told a meeting of the full council that councillors were increasingly getting the brunt of people’s dissatisfaction because callers could not get through to council departments.

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She said: “The residents who fund our services are becoming increasingly frustrated by telephone calls either not being answered or emails not being responded to.”

Coun Julie SlomanCoun Julie Sloman
Coun Julie Sloman

She added: “While the concept of hybrid working and working from home may have some merit, those merits should never be at a cost to the public and their trust in the services, or perception of the delivery of services, which is very much the case currently.

“I have been told by residents that often when calls are answered, they are competing with radios, boiling kettles and children in the background.”

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said discussions had been held around working from home, and it was a case of “getting the balance right.”

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A report to the council’s Scrutiny Leadership Board says lessons will be learned from the customer feedback survey.

It says: “The customer relations team will continue to offer support to staff involved in complaint handling to improve the timeliness and quality of responses, whilst aiming to reduce the need for secondary or follow up enquiries.”