Agenda item

Corporate Complaints and Compliments Annual Report 2021/22


The Commission received a report of the Director of Corporate Resources, which presented the Corporate Complaints and Compliments Annual Report, covering the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 13’ is filed with these minutes.


Arising from discussion, the following point were made:


(i)              Historically the Council had low complaint levels, but this had increased year on year for some time now.  Whilst it was recognised that Covid had affected the figures, Members asked for more benchmarking information to better understand the Council’s complaints numbers when compared with other similar sized local authorities.  Members noted that recording and managing complaints was not a statutory requirement and authorities therefore managed the process differently making it difficult to make comparisons.  Some regional information could be collated, however, and the Director undertook to look at this further.  Members noted that the number of complaints referred to the Ombudsmen could be benchmarked, and such information would be included in the report for the following year.

(ii)             A Member raised concerns about the level of SEND complaints to Children and Family Services, which when combined with SEND Transport complaints (which went to the Environment and Transport Department) had risen significantly.  It was acknowledged that staff pressures and Covid had had a detrimental effect, but the Member commented that as a statutory duty, this could not continue and perhaps required closer scrutiny. 

(iii)           Members noted that external consultants had been appointed to look at SEND and SEND Transport to ensure they were better coordinated across the two departments, focusing on family needs.  A lack of communication between departments had been identified as an issue and this was being addressed to help better forecast expected SEND transport needs. 

(iv)           Members acknowledged that Children and Family Services had and continued to be faced with increased demand for SEND services.  This was intrinsically linked to the delay in the assessment process which inevitably then effected SEND transport arrangements.  It was noted that the number of children assessed each year had increased by more than 10%.  This gave rise to both financial and service difficulties which the Council was working to address. 

(v)            A Member commented that over the last 20 years, the number of children being diagnosed with SEND had increased from around 1 in 300 to now 1 in 60.  Such an increase in demand was unprecedented.  Members noted that this was a national problem and that an annual survey currently being compiled would likely show the cumulative deficit for SEND services across the country to be in the region of £2bn over the next two years.  Members commented that this was unsustainable without further Government support.

(vi)           The Chairman of the Children and Families Overview and Scruitny Committee, Mrs Fryer CC, confirmed that SEND pressures were being looked at by that Committee and it would be receiving a report on this issue at its next meeting in September. 

(vii)         Members noted that it was not only the increase in numbers that gave rise to delays in SEND assessments, but also the increase in the number of complex cases which could not be assessed quickly.  Members acknowledged that such pressures were intrinsically linked to the resulting growth in complaints in this area.  Proportionately, however, the number of complaints compared to the number of cases assessed were not dissimilar to previous years.

(viii)        In response to questions raised, the Director confirmed that the two main common themes of complaints were delays in the delivery of services and communication to manage expectations around that. 

(ix)           A Member queried whether there were any themes to complaints received geographically which members might be made aware of to ensure they were able to support residents on those issues.  The Director advised that complaints were often submitted by email and their locality, if not relevant to the complaint, might not be known.  Such data could not therefore be provided.



(a)            That the update provided be noted and that the comments now made be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration at its meeting on 16th September 2022;

(b)            That the Director be requested to include in the next annual report some comparative data regarding complaint numbers, including regarding those complaints referred to the Ombudsmen.

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