Central Coast Council topped the NSW Ombudsman’s list as the most complained about council last financial year.
And the three years before that.
The Council attracted 158 complaints in 2021-22.
It attracted 164 in 2020-21.
It was 141 in 2019-20
And 125 in 2018-19.
The report didn’t name the councils with the highest complaints in 2017-18.
The latest annual report showed that while Central Coast Council topped the list in terms of the aggregate number of complaints made, it ranked third-highest on a per-capita basis. See the graph at the top of the story.
It was first per capita the previous year and third the year before. That information was not available in the 2018-19 years.
Complaints about Central Coast Council made up 7% of the complaints finalised in this latest report.
The period in question covers the period from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.
The Council went into administration on October 30, 2020 so during this latest period there were no councillors.
The Ombudsman’s report noted that in In 2021–22, the agency finalised 2,405 actionable complaints about councils, including 2 complaints about county councils.
Actionable complaints about the councils in the top ten represented 29% of all the local government actionable complaints finalised in 2021–22.
The most frequently raised issues in actionable complaints about councils were:
- standards of customer service
- complaint-handling processes
- council enforcement action
- charges and fees
- merits/reasoning of council decisions when they are exercising their discretion in accordance with policy or in a statutory setting.
The Ombudsman said the agency had seen an increase in complaints about delays or inaction on enforcement action.
“As COVID-19 lockdowns prevented non-essential inspections from taking place, councils are working through a backlog of investigations.
“There is an ongoing impact of backlogs, including slipping customer service standards, delays in responding to complainants, and delays in responding to our preliminary inquiries,” the report said.
The NSW Ombudsman is one of NSW’s independent ‘watchdog’ or oversight agencies established by Parliament to protect the public by keeping watch over government agencies and officials.
The Ombudsman deals with complaints about generally deal with complaints about the conduct of:
- NSW state government departments
- Local health districts, health specialty networks and hospitals
- Public schools, TAFE NSW and other statutory education bodies
- Other NSW government entities
- Public universities established under NSW legislation
- Custodial services such as Corrective Services NSW and Youth Justice NSW
- Community service providers
- Local government.
The annual report mentioned that significant legislative changes have recently come into effect that will enhance its functions and enable the office to provide more efficient and effective services in several areas.
“They include an express power to review the complaint-handling systems of public authorities proactively, which mirrors a power we already have to review the complaint-handling systems of community service providers,” the report stated.
“We have also been given additional powers to facilitate professional conciliation services to help resolve complaints, as well as to refer complaints back to a relevant agency for investigation. These are all important tools in a modern Ombudsman’s toolkit.”