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Complaints received by Welsh local authorities now higher than pre COVID levels, says Ombudsman

Complaints to local authorities in Wales are now higher than before the pandemic, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) has said.

According to statistics published this week by PSOW on complaints received between April to December 2021:

  • Almost 12,000 complaints were received by Welsh local authorities in the first three quarters of 2021/22; this is the equivalent of 5.1 complaints for every 1,000 residents of Wales.
  • Complaint volumes dipped in the third quarter, showing a 22% reduction compared to quarter two.
  • About 73% of complaints which were closed in the third quarter of the year were done so within the target of 20 working days. “This performance is lower than in the previous two quarters of the year and probably represents the difficulties experienced by all public bodies over the winter period.”
  • Local authorities in Wales upheld about 40% of the complaints they closed in quarter three, a figure that has remained "consistently high throughout the year". Complaints about waste and refuse attracted an uphold rate of 73%.
  • Almost 300 complaints relating to local authorities were referred to PSOW in the third quarter of the year, which represents over 9% of all complaints closed in the same period.
  • PSOW closed 298 complaints about local authorities in quarter three of the year. Some of those complaints would have been referred to the office during the quarter; others would have been received before that period.
  • PSOW intervened in 14% of those cases, by recommending ‘Early Resolution’ or upholding a complaint after an investigation. Since the remaining cases were out of jurisdiction, the actual intervention rate in cases that PSOW could consider was 100%. “This is consistent with the previous quarters of this year and suggests that there are further improvement required in public service delivery.”

Nick Bennett, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said: “This latest data publication shows that complaint volumes are now higher than before the pandemic and, with 9% of complaints being referred to our office, shows that caseloads are high everywhere.

“We’re committed to drive improvement in public services through better complaint handling – and we’ve now provided more than 200 training sessions to public bodies in Wales via our Complaints Standards Authority. Hopefully this will mean more complainants receive a satisfactory response to their complaints early in the process.“

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Matthew Harris, PSOW’s Head of Complaints Standards, said: “We’re pleased to publish information on complaints handled by local authorities again, and we’ll look forward to seeing what the full year’s data looks like later in the year.”

He added that PSOW looking to bring other parts of the Welsh public service, like health boards and housing associations, into its data publication in the near future.

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