The council are considering putting nuisance callers into ‘special measures’ after the number of escalated complaints about CWaC more than trebled in just three years.

Last year Cheshire West and Chester Council received 778 corporate complaints, with more than 140 residents escalating their grievance to the formal stage two of the procedure.

The authority is now considering whether to implement new powers to deal with ‘persistent and unreasonable complaints’, after the number of complaints about how initial problems had been handled more than trebled in three years.

The council currently has no official protocol for dealing with nuisance complainers, but a new ‘unacceptable behaviour policy’ could see them placed into special measures, a report reveals.

The news comes as an official report reveals that CWaC’s corporate complaint system is under review, due to the number of complaints increasing year on year and the service no longer achieving its ‘expected performance levels’.

Between April 2013-March 2014 the authority received 143 level two corporate complaints – more than three times the number received in 2011/2012.

Figures reveal that 64% of these complaints were not responded to within the 0-20 working day compliance period – with 44 complaints taking more than 31 days for a response.

Level two complaints must be made in writing and come if the complaint is dissatisfied with the outcome or investigation of their initial stage one complaint.

The figures do not include service calls, including faults and issues with bin collections, which saw the council's call centre overwhelmed as almost 130,000 calls flooded the authority during the introduction of the new waste management system in 2012.

An official report due before the council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee tonight (Wednesday, September 17) reveals that the authority has received a “general growth” in complaints at “all stages” – with corporate complaints increasing on a yearly basis.

The council are now reviewing their complaints system, after the annual Corporate Complaints report revealed the policy was no “longer achieving its expected performance levels” and needed effectively accommodate more “complex cases”.

The council are preparing to implement a number of changes to the system and training has been given to staff to “improve customer service and interaction skills”, the report states.

The reasons for the yearly increase are “not necessarily related to poor performance at stage one”, but could be due to greater awareness “of appeal rights”.

CWaC have attributed some of the rise in complaints to an increase in the number of “persistent and unreasonable complaints”, saying they currently don’t have protocol for dealing with prolific complainers.

The authority are now planning to introduce an “unacceptable behaviour policy”, which they say will protect their staff members’ health and wellbeing.

The policy - which would outline a series of “special measures” the council could apply troublesome callers - could be put in place by this Autumn and could be applied to anyone who contacts the authority.

“When deciding whether to apply the policy the Council will consider whether the described and identified behaviours have significantly impacted on the service delivery by a team or teams within the Council,” the report states.

“Wherever possible, services, should work with the customer to manage their behaviour without the policy having to be applied and will need to show evidence of doing this.”

Figures in the report reveal that between April 2013-March 2014:

  • 778 complaints were made to the council; 56% were made to localities, who deal with local issues.
  • 28% of these stage one complaints were upheld, and 79% were responded to within the best practice time frame of 0-20 days.
  • During the same period 143 complaints were made at stage two; 51% of these were made to the localities directorate;
  • 79% of all stage two complaints were not upheld; while 20% were upheld of partially upheld;
  • 62 complaints were escalated to the local government ombudsman – 12 were investigated and three were upheld or partially upheld.

The report states that a high proportion of level two complaints are “complex matters” relating to planning, council tax and benefits, which take time to investigate and respond to.

A spokesperson for CWaC said: “We are currently working on developing a policy.

“That policy will hopefully be in place this Autumn.”

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Should persistent callers be put in special measures by CWaC?