An Ombudsman has slammed Bristol city council for failing to respond satisfactorily to two separate complaints, one of which involved missed bin collections.
The Ombudsman involved is known formally as the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, and is is an independent and impartial service which investigates complaints about councils.
The Ombudsman says its investigations into the complaints about Bristol city council, which also involved noise nuisance, were completed in early 2020.
The Ombudsman says that in both cases the council accepted its decision and its recommendations to put things right for the men who had complained, known only as Mr X and Mr Y. The council also committed to improving its services for other people in Bristol.
The Ombudsman says it suspended chasing the council for evidence it had complied with the recommendations during the first lockdown in spring 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Once it resumed its casework, the Ombudsman contacted the council, including its chief executive, “numerous times” for a response. But it says it was not until it registered fresh complaints in November 2020 that the council provided the evidence needed to comply.
The council explained to the Ombudsman it recognised it had an issue with “case handling resource problems”. It carried out an independent internal investigation resulting in recommendations for improvements being made to its chief executive. The council says actions have been implemented in most cases from October 2020.
Good complaints handling
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Good complaints handling should be at the heart of any local authority’s corporate governance arrangements and oversight, but it is clear from these two cases there were significant issues in the city.
“I am pleased the council has acknowledged and identified there have been problems with its complaint handling. However, it should not have taken our intervention – including months of chasing and our decision to register new complaints – to trigger this.”
In a report published on 26 May, the Ombudsman explained how it had received complaints from Mr X in 2019 about three years of repeated missed communal bin collections from his block of flats. Bristol city council owns the Bristol Waste Company (BWC), which carries out refuse collections on its behalf. The Ombudsman found BWC’s failure to collect waste from Mr X’s block was a fault for which the council was responsible.
Mr Y complained to the Ombudsman in 2019 about noise from a business near his home. He said he reported the issues since February 2018, but the council had not taken enforcement action and its communication was “poor”. The Ombudsman found the council had been slow to respond to his concerns.
The council has now agreed to apologise to both men for not carrying out the actions previously agreed. It will also pay them £100 to recognise the frustration and uncertainty caused.
The council agreed to review its revised arrangements for monitoring complaints and ensuring compliance with any future recommendations made. It will ensure waste collection monitoring arrangements are “robust”, so it can provide evidence in future cases.
The Ombudsman says the council still needs to update its written missed collections policy and provide it with a copy.
‘Distress and inconvenience’
A Bristol city council spokesperson told letsrecycle.com today (3 June): “We fully accept the findings of the Ombudsman and recognise that we have fallen short in both our initial handling of these complaints and our compliance with the recommendations made.
“We apologise for any distress and inconvenience caused in these cases. An internal investigation did produce recommendations for future improvements, and we are taking steps to ensure that the appropriate actions are now taken forward.’’