Sunday, June 24, 2007

Merton Council & complaints

At the last meeting of The Way We Work Panel which I chair on Merton Council we received the Annual Complaints Report. While an item like this would not normally take up that much time, at the meeting we were shocked about the under-reporting of complaints in Environmental Services and that only 107 complaints having been made last year. Within the report, it also stated that a significant increase will take place last year in Environmental Services as an internal audit has discovered under registering of complaints.

The other matter that concerned the panel was that complaints from councillors and the local MP's were not recorded in the figures. I know from experience many incidences of complaints are made through councillors and the local MP's, surely this should be shown in the figures if they're to provide an accurate picture.
Apparently a new complaint registering system is to be introduced in relation to councillors and MP's, at the next meeting we've invited the Member Services Manager along to give details on the new system. The Director of Environmental Services will also be attending given the issues that exist.

In any report it's essential that the information provided is accurate, reports that don't provide the full picture should not be published, likewise the Council gains nothing from being inaccurate in providing the full picture in relation to complaints.

I enclose below the report in this weeks Wimbledon Guardian.

Councillors say waste report is total rubbish
By Diana Pilkington
Residents' complaints about issues such as rubbish collection were significantly under-reported by Merton Council last year, a report claims.

According to a report submitted to the Way We Work Overview and Scrutiny Panel, in the last financial year just 107 complaints to the environment and regeneration department were recorded.

This department deals with issues such as refuse collection, recycling, road safety, parking and planning.

If this were an accurate figure, it would mean just 0.14 per cent of the borough's 79,000 households had made a complaint.

The report states that several potential complaints were not classified as such, which "suggests a very significant amount of under-reporting."

It goes on to say: "It is anticipated that the number of complaints recorded by environment and regeneration will increase substantially as a result of improve recording."

At the panel's meeting last Thursday, Councillor Martin Whelton said: "We may have been under-reporting complaints, and reports are being presented to cabinet that don't show an accurate picture."

Councillors also raised concerns that the number of recorded complaints across the council as a whole were low - a total of 1014 - and that a member's objection on behalf of a resident does not officially count as a complaint, leading Councillor Sheila Knight to brand the report "a total whitewash".

Abdool Kara, assistant chief executive of Merton Council, said: "The problem of under-reporting has been solved.

"We can't capture all the things that haven't been recorded. It's impossible to do that.

"The data is as accurate as it can be, but the report acknowledges that it includes some under-reporting in environment and regeneration."

He added that a new system is being brought in to incorporate input from members on behalf of residents.

Have you made a complaint to Merton Council and felt it was not dealt with? Email

For more on the recycling issue, see Feedback, page 10


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