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Complaints drop and thank yous’ increase for Carmarthenshire County Council

THE number of complaints made about Carmarthenshire Council dropped in 2018-19 compared to the previous year, and more people said thanks to the authority.

But the number of cases looked into by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales was much higher than in 2017-18.

There were 758 grumbles – with nearly two-thirds about environment and waste – and 530 compliments in 2018-19.

Complaints ranged from concern about the way a visit to report a resident’s death was handled to a grammatical error on a recorded message – both of which were partially upheld.

Another person’s complaint about being issued a council tax summons after payment had been made was upheld.

On the plus side, there was gratitude for the council’s speech and language support service, and also from a resident whose wife had been looked after during re-enablement after a long stay in hospital.

And a recipient of an economic development grant was, perhaps unsurprisingly, “over the moon”.

The complaints and compliments report also included 2,819 councillor enquiries – usually on behalf of constituents and mostly about environment and waste issues.

Some members of the council’s policy and resources scrutiny committee, which debated the report’s finding, felt these enquiries should be classed as complaints.

Councillor Kim Broom said she thought complaint numbers were lower than one might expect from such a large organisation.

“People are being asked whether they want to raise a formal complaint and they are backing away from that,” she said.

An officer said the public had more ways to express dissatisfaction these days than just by telephone – the method by which the numbers were calculated – and accepted that the findings did not reflect the whole picture.

But he added: “I think people just want it (the complaint) resolved. They don’t necessarily want to go through a formal complaints process.”

Another officer said some of the councillor enquiries did not relate to council functions.

Councillor Carys Jones asked why the number of ombudsman cases had risen to 48 from 23 the previous year.

“I would have to look at why that’s happened,” replied an officer. “The positive is that none of them were upheld.”

Cllr Jones encouraged residents to take the trouble to say thanks.

“If you are proactive in making a complaint, be gracious enough to make a compliment,” she said.

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