Anglesey Council ‘failing’ the public amid ongoing phone issues

Concerns that Anglesey County Council is ‘failing’ island residents by not receiving their phone communications were raised by councillors.

The accusations came amid a meeting of the full council where the Corporate Self-Assessment 2022  report was approved.

Councillor Jeff Evans spoke following a presentation by portfolio holder Councillor Robin W Williams, on Thursday (October 27).

Anglesey County Councillor Jeff Evans raising the phone issue in the council chamber

Anglesey County Councillor Jeff Evans raising the phone issue in the council chamber

Speaking in the Anglesey County Council chamber in Llangefni Cllr Evans said: “There are certain aspects of council performance that I am very unhappy and very aggrieved at.

“Namely the  operation and contact back of the council  telephone system.

“I have repeatedly complained for a long period of time in writing and otherwise to say that we are failing as council to receive communications from the public and to respond accordingly.”

“Even in the last two days, I have received telephone calls from the Council, I don’t know who they are from.

“When I, or members of the public, try to make  contact with the council it’s difficult to find the right people, it is difficult to find anyone available, to know whether they are working from home or the offices. It is difficult to get a response.

“I don’t know how many times complaints have to made before this council recognises and accepts the services provided at this time, are failing the people of Anglesey.

“This may be an audit of self-assessment, in my view, it doesn’t go far enough, you should have picked up, you are failing to adhere to the communications that should be available ‘to and fro’ this council.”

Work in the background

Councillor Robin W Williams said customer service was under his portfolio.

“I can assure you, work is going on in the background to try to resolve the situation.” He said.

“It might be worthwhile to remind you that we have just come through a pandemic, working arrangements  have changed, with people working from home,

“I accept the situation is far from perfect, but work is going on to resolve the situation. I will continue to make ensure work is undertaken.

MORE NEWS:

Addressing Cllr Evans, he added, “I don’t know why you are shaking  your head – everyone has a right to their opinion.”

Retort

Cllr Evans retorted “It’s not the staff to whom I am complaining, I am complaining to this council, they’re failing.

“The pandemic is mentioned for anything that doesn’t appear to be right or wrong, but this has been a problem for quite a few years.

“I keep getting repeated promises ‘it will be sorted’ and ‘it is in hand’ but nothing ever gets done. What we are supposed to do?

“The only way you can get in touch with anyone in this council is almost by driving here, hopefully coming to te desk, hopefully, you might get through to the right people.

“I don’t want myself or all the fine councillors here, and there are some hard-working councillors here, and members of the authority and officers,  we have to get this right.

“We cannot let the people down. I would almost want a date commitment to when we will get this right.”

Cllr Aled Morris Jones

Cllr Aled Morris Jones

Councillor Aled Morris Jones then spoke saying for the council to self assess itself was “like marking our own homework.”

“There’s no  recognition that there is an issue with the phones, yet it is an essential part of customer service.

“I accept we’ve been through an horrific period because of Covid.

“It’s been a challenging time for the authorities’ staff, councillors, all of us,  but I would submit to you chair, the phones should be working most effectively during those times.

He added there was “nothing new” in phone complaints, but there was “no outline” of what the council would do to deal with the problem.

“Detailed consideration must be given to this before we can approve this report, without raising that issue we’d be failing in our duty, chair.” He concluded.

Chair Councillor Dafydd Roberts agreed it was “a concern” also raised in scrutiny committees.

“What I ask is ‘are records kept?’ If we fail to get through, we should report it, and the council can check those records.

Cllr Morris Jones thanked him, but added “with respect”  it was  not for the chair to reply or”act as an air raid shelter” and called for the portfolio holder or officers to respond.

Cllr Robin W Williams said he had had chance to scan the report, and “knew the information was there somewhere.”

“If you look at page 10 or 11, there is a paragraph talking  about areas to be  improved  in 2022/23.” He said.

“Specific improvements targeted, will be, and this is the second item,  is to get feedback from customers’ experiences of the corporate telephone system and switchboard.”

Digital channels

The report also referred to digital channels, which “many more” people  contacted the council by, he said.

“This report does acknowledge a weakness, but we will continue to work on that to ensure there is an a improvement for everyone in the future.”

Cllr Nicola Roberts commented she had had feedback recently, that the system had “improved.”

A vote to accept the report, resulted in 20 in favour, five against and one abstention.

An Isle of Anglesey County Council spokesperson said after the meeting:

“We are, of course, aware of difficulties experienced by some members of the public when trying to contact us by phone and offer our apologies for the inconvenience caused.

“The County Council deals with around 8,000 telephone calls every month, and the majority are dealt without issue.

“However, as part of our ongoing efforts to improve performance at a time of increasing public demand, the Senior Management team has identified the telephone customer experience as a key target in the Corporate Self-Assessment 2022,  approved by the full council.”

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey