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Monday, April 22, 2024

Kirklees council grapples with housing complaints surge: Tenant’s 90 unanswered calls highlight frustration

Just 23 percent of tenants reported being satisfied with the council's complaints handling process, a 2023 survey found

A Kirklees tenant has been left frustrated after making 90 calls to the council for housing repairs in just one day, with no success.

This came to light as part of an update at yesterday’s (25 March) meeting of the Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel in preparation for new complaints handling regulations coming in next month. The meeting heard that while more complaints are being dealt with in the required time frame, the number being received is on the increase, having doubled from 2022 to 2023.

Almost 1,000 formal complaints were made by tenants between January and December 2023 – a 100 percent rise on the previous year. This dramatic increase was put down to people having a greater awareness of the complaints process following campaigns from the council and the Ombudsman.

Head of Partnership at Homes and Neighbourhoods, Michelle Anderson-Dore said: “Last year, despite a lot of good work, 60 percent of our complaints were upheld which means that there’s still a lot more work that we need to do to improve tenant satisfaction and drive up standards.

“If complaints are being upheld, that’s saying the tenants are right – we’ve not done something right, we could’ve done something better or we’ve not provided the right level of information.”

Cllr Zarina Amin. Image: Kirklees Council

Cllr Zarina Amin (Labour, Ashbrow) spoke of an incident concerning a social housing tenant in her ward. She said: “This gentleman rang up the council, he made 90 calls in one day and he didn’t get anywhere. I think at the moment he’s at a level of frustration with regards to the repairs.

“Then on the flip side, I’ve had another case and that was handled really swiftly and really well. While I acknowledge there are cases that are not being dealt with, and they’re more complicated, I do commend the officers because there are cases where they do really well.”

Director of Homes and Neighbourhoods, Naz Parkar: “What we’re reporting today is an improving trend on how we handle but we’ve also said we know that we’ve still got a long way to go and so, unfortunately for that individual tenant, that must have been very frustrating ringing that many times and I apologise on behalf of the council really because that will have come through the normal access channels into the council.”

A 2023 tenant survey with 2636 respondents revealed that just 23 percent of households were satisfied with the way the council handles complaints.

Last year, the Housing Ombudsman made three maladministration determinations against Kirklees, meaning that services or officers had failed to do something, did something that should not have happened or, unreasonably delayed dealing with the matter. This resulted in the council paying a combined total of £1325 in compensation to the three tenants.

No cases of severe maladministration were found which would have seen the cases published by the Ombudsman.

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