Residents complaining about services put on hold for twice as long by council

Calls to complain to the council have been placed on hold for double the amount of time. Picture; stock image
Calls to complain to the council have been placed on hold for double the amount of time. Picture; stock image
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Edinburgh residents phoning the council to complain about services are having to wait more than twice as long for their call to be answered than seven months ago.

Queries about waste, missed bin collections, council tax, benefits and repairs are all going unanswered for up to six minutes on average – compared to just three minutes earlier this year.

This is despite the total number of calls dropping from 76,706 in January to 63,451 in July, the last month for which figures are available. Opposition councillors branded the news “a double dose of failure” – and insisted improvement was “urgently required”.

Tory councillor Joanna Mowat, who requested the statistics, said: “The figures clearly demonstrate that not only are residents experiencing a poor service, as evidenced by the number of complaints, but in addition people complaining about these service failures have to wait longer.

“This is a double dose of failure from the council and improvement is urgently required. It is simply not good enough to have poor service compounded by lengthy waiting times.

“Whilst we welcome the commitments to improve the service, it is worrying that the service has been allowed to fail so badly at a time of great change in the council – this has let the public down and is demoralising for staff.”

More than 10,700 phone calls about waste were made to the council in January this year – roughly 14 an hour – compared with just 6055 in July. Despite this, callers were put on hold for over a minute longer in July – and twice as long in August.

Only 14.4 per cent of calls about waste were answered within 30 seconds in August, well below the council’s own target of 55 per cent.

Campaigner Alan Rudland, who lives near Leith Walk, said he was “not surprised in the slightest” by the figures.

The 51-year-old added: “My general experience of the council is that it does not run its services like a business.

“It’s very much run as, ‘You phoning us is an inconvenience. We will deal with it.’ There’s none of those expectations of under performance and over delivery.”

He suggested locals take to social media to make their complaints heard in an open and transparent way.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, the city’s finance and resources leader, insisted a “new approach” was being adopted to tackle the problem.

He said: “Providing Edinburgh residents with quality customer service is extremely important to us. To improve call waiting times we are currently piloting a new approach in the three areas where waiting times have been higher.

“In the past, issues raised in calls were passed to the service area to resolve. To help us ensure that calls are dealt with more efficiently, we now have dedicated staff from waste, council tax and benefits and shared repairs working in the contact centre who can quickly resolve issues raised in calls when they come in.”