ST HELENS Council insists it takes all complaints against it seriously and ensures they are thoroughly investigated – but admits that sometimes it ‘can get things wrong’.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s annual review of complaints gives a ‘concise overview’ of the state of local government complaints over the past year.

The independent investigator says it has directed more improvements to local councils in the north west in the past year than ever before

It upheld 69 per cent of complaints in the region, which has increased from 65 per cent last year.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “One complaint can have immense power to change things for the better, and we’re increasingly focusing on to how we, and the local authorities we investigate, take the learning from those complaints and improve service provision.

“The vast majority of councils agree to the recommendations we make and see them as common-sense ways of providing better services for people in their area. However this can only happen when councils act swiftly when they have committed to do so.

“Unfortunately we are seeing some councils taking longer to make those changes, which put them at risk of making the same mistakes again. In 18% of cases we found compliance was late.

“While I welcome the professional way in which the majority of councils continue to work with us, I would urge those authorities who are having problems to pay close attention to this final, but crucial, step in the complaints process.”

The Ombudsman’s report is published with detailed data for every English authority on how they perform against similar organisations.

Annual figures published by the Ombudsman, for enquiries and complaints against St Helens Council that have been decided, show that 17 were referred back for local resolution, 10 closed after initial enquiries, 2 not upheld, 11 upheld, 1 invalid or incomplete.

St Helens Council has an uphold rate of 85 per cent, which the council says is based on 13 detailed investigations where 11 cases were upheld.

The average uphold rate of ‘similar authorities’ is 68 per cent.

A council spokesperson said: “The upheld complaints figure of 85 per cent is based on 13 detailed investigations, where 11 cases were upheld.

“Where the Ombudsman has made recommendations for improvements to be made, which occurred in 10 cases, the Ombudsman were 100 per cent satisfied that their recommendations had been implemented.

“The council takes all complaints seriously and ensures that they are thoroughly investigated; however, sometimes we can get things wrong and there may be occasions where a complainant decides to refer their complaint to the Ombudsman.

“The council regularly utilises feedback from complaints to understand where issues may be occurring and we actively apply this to help improve our service delivery.”