THE NUMBER of people making official complaints against Liverpool City Council has fallen dramatically. In its annual report, the Local Government Ombudsman
(LGO) has praised the city council for its work to improve services, which last year saw a more than 40% reduction in complaints against the council.
The LGO investigates complaints made against local authorities. In 2004/5, it received 257 complaints against the city council, 181 fewer than the previous year. And the organisation singles out the council's benefits service for particular praise. Last year, complaints against the service fell by a massive three quarters - from 257 to just 61.
Liverpool City Council Leader Mike Storey said:- "This is fantastic news, and a great credit to the hard work our staff are doing to improve life for all our customers. We are determined to drive up standards, and by providing excellent standards we will take away the need for customers to complain. We are now achieving this across many council departments. Of course, one complaint is one too many, and we realise there is still much to do. But this report from the Local Government Ombudsman shows that we are making major improvements and heading in the right direction."
The council's benefits service has introduced a new computer system, to streamline the operation of the department, cutting down on paperwork and allowing claims to be dealt with far more quickly.
The council now guarantees to deal with all new claims submitted with the correct paperwork within 14 days. The time taken for processing new claims has dropped from 136 days last year to just 33 days. Now clames are ower than the national average of 36 days. And the rate of council tax collection has risen up to 93% from 90% in 2003/4, while the business rates collection figure is the best in the country at 99%.
Liverpool City Council's Chief Executive, Sir David Henshaw, said:- "Ultimately, the views of our customers, their level of satisfaction and their confidence in council services is central to everything we do - so this is a very encouraging report. The improvements in our benefits department over the past year have been staggering, and this is reflected by the huge drop in the number of benefit-related complaints - we're now providing our residents with the benefits service they deserve. I'm delighted with this achievement, but we're not complacent, and we will continue to work to drive up customer satisfaction and drive down complaints."
The LGO report also highlights the way the council is effectively dealing with complaints when they are received. In the past year, the council has taken an average of 19 days to respond to LGO investigators when a complaint is received, beating the LGO's target of 21 days.
Children urged to take the plunge..... for FREE!
and young people across Warrington are being urged to take the plunge - and enjoy
FREE swimming throughout the school summer holidays! 4 Golden Gates Leisure Centres will take part in the 'Free Swim for Kids' extravaganza, which is taking place between 25 July to 4 September.
Every child under the age of 16 and students in full time education up to the age of 18 can make a splash, following a major £40,000 funding boost from Warrington Borough Council as part of its commitment to improving the health and well being of youngsters in every corner of the borough.
The removal of the price barrier gives children the chance to swim as often as they want during the 6 weeks of the summer holidays.
The aims of 'Free Swim for Kids' are to introduce children and young people to the enjoyment and benefits of swimming, to encourage them to take up swimming as a regular lifelong activity and to play a key local role in tackling one of the nation's key issues, not forgetting promoting healthier, more active lifestyles for children.
Cllr Maureen Banner, Executive Member for Well being, said:- "We are committed to giving our young people real opportunities to get fitter and healthier, swimming is a fantastic way to do that. We're putting our money where our mouth is and working together to make our children healthier. The message we want to get across to children and families is that swimming is not only good fun, it can have huge health benefits too."
To access the free session, turn up and admission will be on a first come first served basis. Customers are advised that the open sessions may be extremely busy and access will be limited depending on the number of swimmers in all pools.
This offer applies to all children under the age of 16 or young people in full time education up to the age of 18. An adult must accompany children under the age of 8 in the pool at all times.
Around 10,000 leaflets are due to go out right across the borough. For more details on times and types of sessions pick up a leaflet at your local leisure centre or contact your nearest centre directly on: -
Broomfields Leisure Centre:- 01925 268768
Fordton Leisure Centre:- 01925 572504
Great Sankey Leisure Centre:- 01925 724411
Woolston Leisure:- 01925 813939