More than 700 complaints made to Hertfordshire County Council last year - and 23 Ombudsman investigations started

But that's fewer complaints than the year before

By Deborah Price , Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 3:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th February 2022, 3:30 pm
Hertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire County Council

More than 700 complaints were made to Hertfordshire County Council last year (2020/21) and 23 new investigations started by the Local Government Ombudsman, according to a new report.

Complaints and compliments are used by the county council as an indicator of service performance.

And on Friday (February 11) the data was reported to a meeting of the county council’s resources and performance cabinet panel.

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Councillors heard that last year there were 749 complaints made to the council – which is 226 fewer than in the previous 12 months.

And there were 1,616 compliments – which is 82 more than the previous year.

A breakdown of the complaints and compliments – allocated between council services – was also reported to councillors.

It showed 277 complaints related to children’s services, 207 to adult care services, 17 for community protection, 160 for environment and infrastructure, 59 for libraries and heritage services, three for public health and 26 for ‘resources’.

Meanwhile it highlighted 415 compliments for children’s services, 270 for adult care services, 35 for community protection, 585 for environment and infrastructure, 39 for libraries and heritage service, 11 for public health and 261 for ‘resources’.

Libraries and heritage services was the only area of the council to receive more complaints than compliments.

In every service area only a small proportion of those complaints were upheld – or partially upheld.

According to the report to the panel, the 207 complaints relating to adult care services focussed on disputed charges or costs of service, communication concerns, delays in assessment and dissatisfaction with care plans and assessments of reviews.

And although just 29 complaints were upheld and 31 partially upheld, the report outlines some changes that have been made as a result.

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In relation to adult care services, 10 complaints were made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman – of which eight were upheld.

And in three of those cases the county council agreed to pay financial compensation totalling £2,370.

In children’s services in 2020/21, there were 277 complaints (133 relating to social care and 144 to education) and 415 compliments.

Of the 133 complaints relating to social care, 36 were upheld ad 57 were partially upheld. And of the 144 relating to education, 36 were upheld and 57 were partially upheld.

These complaints are reported to have related to conduct of workers, delays in responding and communication issues, dissatisfaction with care plans and assessments, issues related to education provision and EHCPs and concerns about service decline and closure.

Ten of the 26 decisions on complaints referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman were upheld.

And four of those resulted in the council paying financial compensation totalling £17,258.

Community protection – which includes trading standards and the Fire and Rescue Service – received 17 complaints and 35 compliments. Six of the complaints were upheld and four partially upheld.

Most of the 160 complaints received by ‘environment and infrastructure’ are reported to have related to highways.

But the report also notes an increase in the number of complaints relating to recycling centres, up from 11 in 19/20 to 31.

Fifty-five of the complaints were upheld.

As a result of the complaints, disciplinary action is reported to have been started against an operative at a recycling centre – and a contract was said to have been terminated as a result of a school transport complaint.

In addition the policy regarding van permits was reviewed, to exclude campervans – and there has been a review of hedge maintenance policy.

Customer service, opening hours and fees and charges made up most of the 59 complaints made against the county council’s libraries and heritage services.

And this was reported to have included some complaints about why the libraries in Hertfordshire were closed during the pandemic.

Meanwhile public health received three complaints during the 2020/21 period – relating to moved appointments due to the impact of Covid and a Covid test result not being received.

In contrast the service received 11 compliments.

And the council’s resources division received 261 compliments and just 26 complaints.

Twenty of the 26 complaints relating to resources were upheld.