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Local Authority complaints higher than pre COVID levels

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has today published statistics on complaints received by Local Authorities for the proportion of the financial year April to December 2021.*

The data shows that almost 12,000 complaints were received by Welsh Local Authorities in the first three quarters of 2021/22; this is the equivalent of 5.1 complaints for every 1,000 residents of Wales. PSOW uses this type of representation to better compare public services in Local Authorities which vary greatly in size. Complaint volumes dipped in the third quarter, showing a 22% reduction compared to quarter two.

The data shows that about 73% of complaints which were closed in the third quarter of the year were done so within the target of 20 working days. This performance is lower than in the previous two quarters of the year and probably represents the difficulties experienced by all public bodies over the winter period.

Local Authorities in Wales upheld about 40% of the complaints they closed in quarter three. This figure has remained consistently high throughout the year – with complaints about waste and refuse attracting an uphold rate of 73%.

Almost 300 complaints relating to Local Authorities were referred to PSOW in the third quarter of the year, which represents over 9% of all complaints closed in the same period.

The numbers of complaints referred gives context to both Local Authority complaints data and cases about Local Authorities handled by PSOW.

PSOW closed 298 complaints about Local Authorities in quarter three of the year. Some of those complaints would have been referred to the office during the quarter; others would have been received before that period.

PSOW intervened in 14% of those cases, by recommending Early Resolution** or upholding a complaint after an investigation.  Since the remaining cases were out of jurisdiction, the actual intervention rate in cases that PSOW could consider was 100%. This is consistent with the previous quarters of this year and suggests that there are further improvement required in public service delivery.

Nick Bennett, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said, “This latest data publication shows that complaint volumes are now higher than before the pandemic and, with 9% of complaints being referred to our office, shows that caseloads are high everywhere. We’re committed to drive improvement in public services through better complaint handling – and we’ve now provided more than 200 training sessions to public bodies in Wales via our Complaints Standards Authority. Hopefully this will mean more complainants receive a satisfactory response to their complaints early in the process.“

Matthew Harris, PSOW’s Head of Complaints Standards, said,

“We’re pleased to publish information on complaints handled by Local Authorities again, and we’ll look forward to seeing what the full year’s data looks like later in the year. We’ll also look forward to bringing other parts of the Welsh Public Service, like Health Boards and Housing Associations, into our data publication in the near future”.

*The way we present information on intervention rate and PSOW cases closed has been amended from our initial publication to more closely align with our reporting in our Annual Report and Annual Letters. The data available to download has been updated accordingly.

** In some cases, we may take the view that there is action that the organisation being complained about could take quickly to resolve a complaint. In these cases, we will contact the organisation involved to explain what we think might be done and seek its agreement to take that forward.

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