Website upgrade leads to fewer complaints against Highland Council – but targets still not being met

Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson.

Highland Council received 35% fewer complaints last year compared to the year before, but about half were not resolved within the target time of five days.

The authority received 1,424 complaints during the 2018/19 financial year, compared to 2,195 the previous year.

The fall has been attributed to a a “radical review” of the council’s website – which has made it easier to navigate and resulted in fewer people reaching the end of their tether and calling in to raise grievances.

Members of the audit and scrutiny committee were yesterday told that most of the gripes concerned council housing.

Sheila McKandie, acting head of revenues and customer services, told councillors that the issue has remained in the top two reasons for complaints over the past three years but said the figure was below the most recent national average.

She said: “This is within the context that the council currently has 14,000 tenants with a further 8,000 on the waiting list.

“For 2018/19 the level of complaints received equates to 2.5 complaints per 100 homes as compared to 3.3 complaints per 100 homes for all Scottish authorities in 2017/18.”

Ms McKandie said great strides had been made overall in improving performance around complaints, but said meeting deadlines remained a “challenge”.

She added: “About 45% of complaints are resolved within the five-day target set by government. It’s a very stretching target, challenging to meet.

“With stage two complaints, which must be resolved in 20 days, we’ve seen a gradual increase in performance to 65%.

“That is still short of the 70% we are aiming for, but we also don’t want performance targets to drive what we do.”

Ms McKandie praised the work of the council’s customer service officers.

She added: “They are constantly coming forward with ideas for improving.”

The council has now risen from 19th place to 10th in the national rankings for handling complaints.

Council leader, Margaret Davidson, said: “I regularly say to people, lift the phone because our customer service operators are extremely skilled at trying to unpick people’s problems.

“I’m really pleased also that the changes in the website are making a difference.”