COMPLAINTS about BCP Council are likely to remain a mystery for at least a year because the authority has no central method of measuring them.

Anecdotally it is believed the number of public complaints is rising although no one collates the figures across all council activities, apart from the more serious cases which reach the Local Government Ombudsman.

Of those seven out of ten cases has been found against the council – costing it £5,877 in the last financial year and £12,750 so far this year in financial remedies.

Although the work of the Ombudsman was paused for three months because of Covid there were 98 complaints about BCP in 20/21 compared to 105 in 19/20.

The biggest areas for complaint to the Ombudsman about BCP include planning and education, adult care services, housing and transport and highways.

Policy officer Graeme Smith told Monday’s overview and scrutiny committee that it was likely that BCP was following the national trend and seeing an increase in complaints: “Anecdotally we are aware that some services are struggling to cope with the demands of complaints, leading to delays in responses. This would suggest that there is a capacity issue in some units, driven by an increase in complaints or a reduction in resource, or a combination of the two,” he said in a report to the committee.

He said plans were being made to log all the complaints in one place, rather than the current system where each services area deals with its own, but that could take 12 to 18 months to achieve.

Councillors were told that having a central unit to deal with complaints would be seen to be more independent, rather than each department investigate its own cases, and would ease the pressure on staff.

Dorset Council does have a central complaint unit and in the financial year 2020/21 had higher numbers of complaints investigated (30) and upheld (17) but a lower rate (57%), were upheld.

In 18 per cent of the complaints upheld by the Ombudsman Dorset Council had already provided a satisfactory remedy in contrast to BCP where no upheld complaints already had a satisfactory remedy. Nationally the average is 10 per cent.