Ombudsman received 186 complaints against Sheffield council

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A total of 186 complaints were made against Sheffield City Council to the Local Government in the last financial year, new figures have revealed.

The report shows the Ombudsman received 17,452 complaints and enquiries about local government in 2017-18 nationally, compared with 16,863 in the previous year.

In Sheffield, 32 complaints related to adult social care, while 17 complaints were made over benefits and tax.

Residents made 11 complaints over corporate services, while 46 complaints to the Ombudsman were regarding education and children’s services.

A total of 17 complaints related to environmental services and public protection, while 33 complaints related to highways, 16 to housing and 11 to planning and development. Three complaints are categorised as ‘other’.

Of these, nine were deemed invalid or incomplete, while advice was given in three more.

A total of 62 complaints were referred back to Sheffield City Council to resolve at a local level, while a further 65 complaints were closed after initial enquiries.

Of the 33 complaints ruled on by the Ombudsman, 22 were upheld against the council.

A total of 18 complaints were remedied by the Ombudsman, and just two by Sheffield City Council.

Nationally, the proportion of complaints it has upheld has increased to 57 per ent - up from 54 per cent the previous year. The Ombudsman has also issued 40 per cent more public interest reports about local authorities in the same period.

With it increasingly challenging authorities on how complaints can improve services more widely, as well as remedying individual injustices, the Ombudsman has made 21 per cent more recommendations for service improvements this year. Recommendations to remedy personal injustice were also up three per cent nationally - from 2,428 to 2,566.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The raw data included in our report can only tell a part of the story – the wider outcomes from the complaints we receive are far more important than the numbers.

“For a long time, we’ve been pressing just how important complaints can be as a learning tool for local authorities – and a great source of free feedback about the health of the services they provide.

“We know being on the receiving end of an upheld complaint can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly in these difficult times. But this year, we’ve seen some really positive examples of councils taking on board our recommendations, making root and branch reviews of their services and putting in place changes that will help many more than just the person who originally came to us.

“Over the coming year I hope even more councils will take on a more mature and positive reflection of the data we provide, their annual letters and the many focus reports and public interest reports we issue and use these tools to scrutinise where their own services might be improved.”

The Ombudsman investigates complaints about all local authorities and social care providers in England.

Every year it publishes the information it sends to councils to help with transparency and improve local services for residents.

Since the Ombudsman first started releasing its annual reviews in 2014, its complaint uphold rate has increased sharply from 46 per cent, to 57 per cent of detailed investigations in 2018.

In the same period complaints about Children and Education services have increased from 38 per cent to 65 per cent.