New automated hotline for Capital bin complaints criticised

The service has been branded 'confusing' with many calling out for a manned service for the public to talk to.
The service has been branded 'confusing' with many calling out for a manned service for the public to talk to.
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Councillors have hit out at a “confusing” and “impersonal” new automated hotline for bin complaints.

Critics say the line, which was first piloted in June, is ­difficult to navigate and does not give residents the option to speak to a member of staff.

The council argue that ­people with a bin collection complaint can contact them via a website, social media or the automated line.

But some residents have struggled with the new system, saying they “just want to speak to someone”.

Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart councillor Andrew Johnston has called on the council to reinstate the option to speak to a representative when residents contact the bin ­complaint hotline. He said he was shocked that the ­coalition council voted against the motion, adding: “To me it’s a no brainer.

“You pay council tax, you expect a service in return, it’s not delivered upon and then when you try and report the problem you have to speak to a computer and the computer invariably says no.

“I have had dozens of ­constituents get in touch about this. For many residents, ­telephone computer menu systems are both impersonal and confusing. I accept they are useful but not in isolation. Residents are saying that they find the telephone automation system confusing and difficult to navigate.

“There should always be an option to speak to someone and that’s not there.

“I know that in the previous council this was looked at in one of the committees as a move towards a digital service.

“If they are able to speak to the council officers who do a great job, I’m sure they would be happy with that. It’s creating unnecessary ill will about the council in their way of delivering services.

“Constituents say ‘I just want to speak to someone about a problem and I can’t get through’. Council tax has increased radically in the last six months and they feel they are getting a reduced service.”

Councillor Cameron Rose backed the motion, saying it was not acceptable that people have had to put up with this issue over an extended period.

But SNP councillor Alasdair Rankin defended the council’s position and said the intention was not to create technological barriers. At the full council meeting last week he said the number of answered calls had improved by 10 per cent and the number of abandoned calls were down to 6.6 per cent. “We don’t want any abandoned calls,” he said. “But this shows a trend in the right direction.”

A council spokesman said: “There are more services in place for people to report waste and cleansing issues in ­Edinburgh than there ever have been. Whether you report a problem to edinburgh.gov.uk, tweet the dedicated @edinhelp channel, or call us, the ­automated systems we have in place help to ensure no enquiry goes unnoticed.

“We continue to ask those who are able to do so to save time and contact us online.”

The council moved towards a “channel shift strategy”, which was agreed by the finance and resources committee in January 2015, in which they hope to make an estimated saving of £5.9 million by 2017/18.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk