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Potholes and roadworks among biggest cause of complaints to council

PUBLISHED: 09:13 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:18 18 September 2018

Potholes have been a problem in Suffolk following a harsh winter Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Potholes have been a problem in Suffolk following a harsh winter Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In all, 1,154 complaints were made to Suffolk County Council last year, according to data published by its audit committee.

Concerns over the area’s roads sparked more than one in three complaints made to Suffolk County Council last year - with just half answered on time, it has emerged.

Suffolk Highways complaints were the subject of more complaints than anything else at 439. Complaints over social care fieldwork and the social work team generated more than 100 complaints each.

The data revealed that 70% of all highways complaints were regarding quality of service or lack of provision, and just 51% of complaints were responded to within the council’s target 20-day time period.

Mary Evans, cabinet member for highways and transport at SCC, said: “We take customer feedback and complaints very seriously in every service across the council.

Mary Evans said complaints were taken seriously Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans said complaints were taken seriously Picture: GREGG BROWN

“The views of residents are used to put things right when they have gone wrong and to help improve services as well as acknowledging when things have gone well.

“As a largely rural county, the vast majority of residents do tend to use our highways and transport infrastructure on a daily basis and the service does divide opinion from time to time. I’m sure this is reflected in the service area receiving this amount of complaints in relation to other services.

“It should also be reflected that Suffolk Highways does frequently receive compliments too, which really does mean a lot to me and the team.

“Suffolk Highways does a great deal of work across the county every day to keep people moving safely, whether that’s on four wheels, two wheels or as a pedestrian.

“We use an online highways reporting tool through the council’s website, which enables people to tell us about concerns and areas where they believe work is required.

“As more people use this technology and use our feedback channels, we are able to capture views and complaints.”

The data comes amid a drive by the council following the leadership change in May to review how its roads are maintained.

In May, the Suffolk Highways team said it had learnt lessons from a harsh winter which meant its gritting runs had nearly doubled and had to prioritise fixing hundreds of potholes that impacted on its regular maintenance schedule.

Labour group reaction

Councillor Sarah Adams, Labour group leader at the county council, has called for a rethink of how highways are maintained in light of the figures.

“As the audit committee report highlights there are some fundamental issues at the heart of Suffolk County Council,” she said.

“The number of complaints is rising and even more worrying is the number of complaints now not responded to in time has skyrocketed.

“The report identifies Suffolk Highways as the biggest recipient of complaints to the council, with more than half the total.

“But this comes as no surprise given that they have consistently failed to get to grips with the pot hole crisis this county faces.

“Staggeringly 70% of the complaints about Suffolk Highways are to do with the quality or service of the work they do.

“Perhaps the most shocking fact is the complete breakdown in communication from Suffolk Highways with a failure to answer more than half the complaints in the appropriate designated time.

“Only last year Suffolk Highways was restructured in order to make improvements to the service, earlier this year another review was instigated into why Suffolk Highways was failing, and now this report shows that the organisation is getting worse not better, perhaps it is time to cut our losses and rethink the whole highways delivery model.”

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