Nottingham City Council had to pay out more than £8,000 for a child’s loss of education after it took away his transport to and from school.
The authority’s Audit Committee met on Friday, September 24, to discuss a report about the number of council complaints received by residents.
The highest number of general complaints are around waste services including missed bin collections, with more than 2,000 received in total.
And from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, the council had three complaints upheld by a Government Ombudsman.
In all cases, the Ombudsman was satisfied the authority had successfully implemented its recommendations.
However it also noted the authority had not reached a satisfactory remedy in any of the three cases before they reached the Ombudsman.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, wrote to the city council in July 2021 about a complaint upheld in November 2020. It was shared with the audit committee.
A mother complained to the Ombudsman over the refusal to provide home to school transport for her son to his previous school and a special academy for pupils with moderate learning difficulties.
She said he could not walk long distances due to his hypermobility, autism and ADHD and she was forced to pay out £400 a month on a private taxi.
She claimed this had put her into debt with her utility bills and she could no longer afford the taxi, meaning it severely affected his school attendance.
In his letter to the council, Mr King said: “This year, we issued a public report about your council’s refusal to provide home to school transport for a boy who has difficulty walking long distances and diagnoses related to behaviour and communication challenges.
“We found that, when withdrawing his transport provision and when considering his appeals to reinstate it, the council failed to give proper weight to supporting evidence, or to the disruption that withdrawing transport might cause him.
“We found that, on balance, had the council considered matters properly, it would have continued to provide transport.
“By not doing so, we concluded the family endured financial hardship and the boy lost around 11 months schooling.
“I am pleased the council unreservedly accepted our recommendations that it apologise to the family and make a payment of £8,311 to reflect the boy’s loss of schooling, the family’s distress and time and trouble, and costs incurred in getting him to school.
“I was also pleased to note that, having already carried out procedural and policy changes in response to earlier investigations, the council has agreed and implemented further procedural changes, which will help avoid replicating the circumstances that led to this case.”
In terms of general complaints, the Have your Say service, processed 4,157 stage one complaints (local resolution) and 102 stage 2 complaint reviews (investigations).
The top ten complaint topics were:
Council Tax: 164
Traffic and Safety: 151
Parking Regulation and Compliance: 55
Selective Licensing: 51
Transport Strategy (Wind Scooters): 50
The report for the audit committee states: “Looking at the top areas for complaints we can see that the level of complaints have remained on par with last year in most areas, including complaints regarding Waste (Neighbourhood Services) being the dominant area citizens contact the council to make a complaint about.
“The high volume of complaints for waste are primarily residents complaining about issues with their bin collection such as complaints about frequently missed collections, the assisted pull out service and replacement bins.
“For 2020-21 the highest volume of complaints were in relation to replacement bins and missed domestic bin collections.”
Cllr Jane Lakey (Lab) said: “What I am interested in is at a service level what do we do? Does it inform how we deliver our services and can it help in the reviewing of services?”