Complaints against authority on the rise

COMPLAINTS made to county watchdogs have increased by 45 per cent in the space of 12 months, new figures have shown today.

COMPLAINTS made to county watchdogs have increased by 45 per cent in the space of 12 months, new figures have shown today.

A total of 42 complaints were made to the local government ombudsmen regarding Suffolk County Council between April 2007 and March 2008.

The figure is an increase of 13 complaints (45pc) on the number received the previous year.

The majority of complaints were made regarding children and young people's services (17) and environment and transport (12).

Of the total number of complaints, a “local settlement”, where the council agrees to take action in response to a case, was reached on six occasions with compensation being paid in relation to two cases.

The ombudsmen found no evidence of fault by the council in six cases and used discretion not to pursue a further ten complaints while nine complaints were outside the ombudsman's jurisdiction.

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A total of 12 complaints were referred back to the council as it was deemed the authority had not had sufficient time to deal with them.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council defended the number of complaints the council had received.

She said: "The numbers of complaints against the county council this year are relatively small. The ombudsman received 42 complaints against the council, of which 12 were made prematurely and referred back to the council for consideration.

"The ombudsman noted that response times to complaints have improved and that there were no findings of maladministration in this period.”

The average response time for dealing with complaints was 27.2 days, just within the target of 28 days.

Are you satisfied with the service provided by Suffolk County Council? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

In an adult services compliant the ombudsman found the council had unfairly withdrawn respite payments from the complainant and had failed to review the decision within a reasonable time.

The council agreed to pay £200 compensation and to carry over the complainant's outstanding respite care entitlement into the following financial year.

A special educational needs complaint involved a delay in issuing a final statement on the child's needs and failing to put into place non-educational provision set out in a statement.

The council agreed to pay £350 in compensation and reimburse the cost of 'catch up' sessions.

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