NEARLY 100 complaints about BCP Council were lodged with a local government watchdog last year, figures show.

The coronavirus pandemic has intensified existing problems, “widened cracks” and contributed to the most difficult time in several years for local authorities nationally, according to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The body looks at complaints about councils and some other authorities, such as adult social care providers and education appeal panels.

Figures from the LGSCO show 98 complaints or enquiries about Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council were lodged in the year to March, though the ombudsman was closed to new complaints between March and June 2020.

That was down from 101 the year before.

The highest number of concerns (18) involved education and children’s services. There were 14 cases related to adult social care.

Different data shows 13 cases deemed to warrant a full investigation by the LGSCO were concluded in 2020-21, with nine resulting in a complaint being upheld against the council.

The reasons for the complaints were not provided.

At the height of the first lockdown, the ombudsman was closed to new cases and halted ongoing investigations.

Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said the figures showed investigators were finding fault more often.

He added: “While the way local authorities dealt with the pressures of Covid-19 is still being played out in our casework, early indications suggest it is only widening the cracks that were already there.”

He said the concerns “cannot be wholly attributed to the trials of the pandemic".

A BCP Council spokesperson said: “The council considers all complaints investigated by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).

“Every enquiry received from the LGSCO is logged and responded to. The chief executive is copied into all responses from the LGSCO and discusses all key issues with Corporate and Service Directors. All LGSCO recommendations are taken seriously.

“A reduction in complaints made to the LGSCO during 2020/21 was attributed to the LGSCO not taking complaints for three months during the pandemic.

“A review of how complaints are managed and handled across the council is under way. This is integral to the council’s ambitious transformation programme, which has improving services at its heart.”