More than twice as many complaints were made about Cheshire East Council last year than neighbouring Cheshire West and Chester - but it insists the number is ‘not exceptional’.
Figures released by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman show that residents raised 154 complaints about CEC in 2017-18, compared to just 74 about Cheshire West and Chester Council in the same year.
But the two councils had a similar percentage of complaints upheld by the ombudsman - with 55% of CEC’s complaints and 54% of CWAC’s being upheld.
And with Cheshire East having a 12% bigger population than Cheshire West, the council insists the ombudsman’s figures do not paint a full picture.
A spokesman at CEC said: “As the third-largest unitary authority in the north west and one of the biggest boroughs in the country, the figures for complaints to the council - while appearing to be high - are not exceptional.
“These statistics should not be compared with just one neighbouring authority, which happens to have a smaller population. Some boroughs with smaller populations than Cheshire East have received many more complaints than this council.
“There is also a tendency for some people to go directly to the ombudsman before exploring the council’s own complaints procedure.”
Of the 154 complaints raised to the ombudsman about CEC, 57 were referred back to the council, 47 were closed, 24 were upheld by the ombudsman, 20 were not upheld and six were deemed as ‘invalid’ - meaning just 29% of complaints were reviewed by the ombudsman.
CEC says that the 55% rate of upheld complaints compares ‘favourably’ to other unitary authorities - including neighbouring Warrington, which saw three-quarters of its complaints upheld by the ombudsman.
The council added: “Where complaints are upheld, the council will learn from any mistakes and improve its processes. The council treats all complaints seriously and has a clear policy in the way it handles complaints.
“The council continues to receive many compliments for the hundreds of services delivered daily but we are never complacent and will always strive to improve on our overall performance.
“CEC welcomes all comments and feedback from the public and, where complaints cannot be satisfactorily resolved, the complainant can refer the matter to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.”
The biggest issue raised by residents who complained about CEC and CWAC to the ombudsman was the council’s education and children’s services.
Residents in Cheshire East raised 43 complaints raised in connection to those services in 2017-18, while residents in Cheshire West raised 17 complaints on the matter.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The raw data included in our report can only tell a part of the story - the wider outcomes from the complaints we receive are far more important than the numbers.
“We know being on the receiving end of an upheld complaint can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly in these difficult times.
“But this year, we’ve seen some really positive examples of councils taking on board our recommendations, making root and branch reviews of their services and putting in place changes that will help many more than just the person who originally came to us.
“Over the coming year I hope even more councils will take on a more mature and positive reflection of the data we provide, their annual letters and the many focus reports and public interest reports we issue and use these tools to scrutinise where their own services might be improved.”