To think that it generally helps if the council actually return calls?

(29 Posts)
Xihha Tue 06-Aug-13 15:53:22

I don't really want to go into too much detail about why but I need to talk to a specific person at the local council, I have been trying to get hold of them for a month, they were supposed to have been in touch with me before that, they never answer the number they gave me, they never return my calls and when I called the reception desk they said they can't do anything so give me the number for the direct line, which is the same line I have been calling!

They have my phone number and I've left it on every message just in case and after sitting in the council offices for 2 hours in the hope the person I needed to talk to would be there, doing what they are bloody well paid to do, only to be told they were too busy to see me, the lady I eventually saw told me she wasn't able to do anything but she sent an internal message telling this person to call me asap and checked my number was correct on the system, that was a week ago and I still haven't heard anything. I know she sent it because she did it in front of me. It's really pissing me off.

I accept that they may be extremely busy but as it is a serious issue which they were supposed to have dealt with by the beginning of July, shouldn't someone of let me know what was going on by now?

AIBU to think that this really isn't acceptable?

Scholes34 Tue 06-Aug-13 16:33:20

Why not write a letter, and follow it up with another when that's not responded to, then send all correspondence to your councillor asking if they can help?

Xihha Tue 06-Aug-13 16:45:35

Yeah, I think I'll have to try that. sad

ChessieFL Tue 06-Aug-13 16:48:41

Write to the council's chief executive.

cantdoalgebra Tue 06-Aug-13 16:55:37

When dealing with councils, I find it helpful to record date/time of all calls or contact. This information can then be used to good effect if you are ignored.

write to the chief exec make sure you say it's a formal complaint about the customer service levels.Expect an extremely prompt response. I work in local government and have previously worked in private sector.local government in my experience is particularly bad at covering work when people are suddenly absent e.g. illness or bereavement (which is the only reason I can think of to ignore you this long!)

Xihha Tue 06-Aug-13 17:24:44

thanks, will get DH to help me write a letter once the DCs are asleep.

denial, thats the odd thing, I asked the receptionist because I thought maybe she was ill or on holiday but she said the person was in but busy and when I went into the offices I could see the person at their desk (its open plan offices) but again was told they were busy.

We're not allowed refuse to come to reception if in the building (not in a meeting etc).It's an absolute rule. Lots of peopleangry but I think it works. We're also measured in response times. To be fair a lot of councils have been cut to shreds and people are doing the work of two out the people. but in that case they should be managing expectations and telling you at the outset that it will take a long time to respond.

Xihha Tue 06-Aug-13 17:31:20

is that a rule everywhere or is that specific to the council you are at?

Each council has its own rules as far as I know. There should be some sort of customer care policy on the website that you can check? If for some reason I couldn't make time to see you or answer your question I would be expected to e mail you etc with a reason response couldn't be made and a realistic date when response would be made.

alwaysinamuckingfuddle Tue 06-Aug-13 17:38:05

Yes, just write a letter of complaint to the Chief Executive. It will get passed to the relevant Director then Manager.

You are more likely to get the issue resolved quickly as several people will be on the case.

I used to be PA to a Chief Executive and used to seriously kick people's butts!!!

I always get a shiver of dread when the chief execs pa even walks thorough our piece of the officewink

TidyDancer Tue 06-Aug-13 17:52:57

I know you say it's a serious issue, but is it possible it's not a high priority in terms of how the council would view it? I'm not trying to criticise you, because I'm sure you're not overamping it, but what can seem quite serious to one person, may not be to others.

I used to work at the council many years ago and we'd have people apoplectic because something was wrong with their bin (yes, really) and then others who had urgent problems relating to, for eg, homelessness.

I wouldn't go to the chief exec unless it was very very serious, manager or head of department should suffice.

TidyDancer Tue 06-Aug-13 17:53:58

Sorry, meant to say those with homelessness issues were infinitely calmer than those with bin issues.

But Xihha has a right to a response to her query. She pays Council tax, uses Council services she is a customer. Even if she just wants to know why the council letterhead is green not blue she should receive a response within the timescales in the councils relevant policy. The response might be "Its not within our corporate priorities to respond to your query" but a response must be made. Nothing maddens people more than just being ignored. I'm guessing that the op queried something sometime in May /June and was told it would be dealt with by the beginning of July. Its now August 6. There might be a bloody good reason why the matter hasn't been dealt with by now or not but the basic minimum the customer should get is a response / explanation / holding e-mail.

People do get wound up about their bins, that's what is important to them and they deserve to be heard. The person answering the queries on bins won't be taking time away from the homeless prevention team. Those two people have probably never even met.

Harryhairypig Tue 06-Aug-13 18:24:32

Put a complaint in . That will get you a response. But the situation is probably that the person has more work than can be done by one person and is simply prioritising depending who is shouting loudest. So you need to shout to get anywhere.

TidyDancer Tue 06-Aug-13 18:45:07

denialandpanic - sorry, but you're wrong. The people being silly about bins are taking time away from genuine problems because many councils use one customer service team for everything. I was using the bins/homeless comparison as an example only, there are many many other services that merge.

I'm not even remotely suggesting, nor did I say, that the OP doesn't deserve a response. It's a long time to wait I agree, but it doesn't mean (depending on the department) that she's outside of target periods for responses. I recall two specific areas from when I worked there that had response targets of six and eight weeks respectively. And we don't know from the OP that she hasn't had some generic acknowledgment of her issue at some point.

Shouting the loudest doesn't always get you where you need to be, so be careful about following that advice!

beals692 Tue 06-Aug-13 18:50:21

As someone who works in a local council that has suffered from heavy cuts, yes, this does affect service levels. The team I work on is now trying to deal with a higher volume of work with less than half the staff we had a couple of years ago and basically, you just have to jump to whatever new crisis/management priority has happened that day. I kind of feel for staff who get picked up on why something hasn't been done within a certain time frame because looked at in isolation it always does seem ridiculous that something hasn't been done within x period of time but, in reality, there are probably dozens of other projects that are all as urgent and so many days where staff are told 'right this crisis/priority has happened everybody needs to drop everything and work on this' - losing you a whole day and creating more of a backlog. Plus because they have cut services back to bare bones, there is absolutely no slack in the system for someone being off sick or on leave (although you do have to pick up their work.)

However, if you are having no luck, contact your Councillor - In my experience, this is the most effective way of getting yourself to the top of the priority list.

Harryhairypig Tue 06-Aug-13 19:18:13

Beals has said it better than me but that's what I meant. Stuff gets pushed down the priority list all the time. A complaint may boost it up. There simply are no longer resources to do what's required and it won't be changing any time soon.

Xihha Tue 06-Aug-13 19:24:49

Tidydancer, I know what you mean, the poor receptionist was being moaned at about dog poo when i went in last week, which ok its annoying but the way the guy was shouting you'd think the receptionist was the one pooing in his garden! how I wish it was something like bins but no, mine is definitely high priority (homelessness with children) and they've already lost our paperwork twice since April!

sad even just an email saying 'we haven't forgotten you' would help.

Xihha Tue 06-Aug-13 19:30:45

Sorry would of put more in the OP about what it was about had it occurred to me that it made a difference, i just assumed different departments have different staff so you'd still expect a response in the time frame whatever the issue, I hadn't thought about the effects all the cuts would of had.

Earthworms Tue 06-Aug-13 19:30:48

I'd start by sending an email, just to tht person to beginwith, then cc in progressively more senior managers.

If that got no joy in a few days I'd go to the top, with an official complaint.

If all the members of the public who get bumped down the chain whenever a crisis comes in bring that to the directors attention, then the head of service will get a bollocking, you never know, something might get done - like a more realistic staff level. Somehow.

xihaa I hope you get some answers soonthanks

thepig Tue 06-Aug-13 19:43:04

Just one experience and I'm not suggesting it's representative...

Dealing with my own council over the last 8 years. Never had an email replied to when using the 'contact us' form. Apart from a few good apples staff are almost universally surly and act like they're doing you a favour, whether you're trying to pay rent or getting a parking permit or anything else. Smiling is illegal at my council it would seem.

Contrast that with my bank or mobile phone provider who bend over backwards to help me out. Bank just gave me £5 simply for forgetting to call me at an arranged time. Mobile company gave me £100 credit for a mildly bad customer service experience, complete with full apology.

Yes I realise their intentions are different...but then that's kind of my point.

The difference in service is glaring.

TidyDancer Tue 06-Aug-13 19:47:34

Xihha - in that case yes, I'm very surprised and annoyed for you that you haven't had a response. That should be prioritised for sure.

Hang in there, thinking of you.

xihaa where I work we still have separate customer facing teams so e.g.environmental health staff answer the environmental health phones etc.More and more councils seem to be putting a call centre at the front end like tidydancers examples. also the cuts have not had a proportionate effect. rich councils in naice Tory areas do not appear to be as badly affected as ?Labour councils in poorer areas and London. some people will say the former are just better run most people realise the funding system is skewed.

Xihha Fri 09-Aug-13 14:39:30

Thanks for all the advice, I have finally got hold of the person i needed to speak to, they are not being helpful and are trying to palm me off on other people/agencies, all of whom have agreed that the person i am dealing with is wrong and is not doing their job properly so have given me some names of people to contact, its like working in a call center today, currently waiting on a cal back from the legal team Shelter use so hopefully there will be some advice there.

twinkletoedelephant Fri 09-Aug-13 16:30:21

I have given up with our council we have contacted them about a neighbour leaving food out for the.' bird's and foxes ( enough for a small county) and now we have a big rat problem.....

Had a reply that they sent Somone out and could see no sign of rats, but the dead rat at the front of the house could be disposed by double bagging and placed in the bins..... They cannot see the problem when I phoned... Thankfully cat helps keeps the numbers down smile

twinkletoedelephant Fri 09-Aug-13 16:30:42

I have given up with our council we have contacted them about a neighbour leaving food out for the.' bird's and foxes ( enough for a small county) and now we have a big rat problem.....

Had a reply that they sent Somone out and could see no sign of rats, but the dead rat at the front of the house could be disposed by double bagging and placed in the bins..... They cannot see the problem when I phoned... Thankfully cat helps keeps the numbers down smile

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