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Concerns over Flintshire Council’s delayed responses raised in Assembly

Concerns over delayed responses by council staff in Flintshire have been raised in the Welsh Assembly.

It follows complaints that officers are not answering calls and e-mails from residents and politicians in a timely manner.

The issue was highlighted in the Senedd by North Wales AM Mark Isherwood, who said the authority had failed to reply to a person with autism on several occasions.

In September a motion was approved by councillors in Flintshire which called on chief executive Colin Everett to ensure officers respond to requests with ‘courtesy and good manners’, and without leaving people waiting.

It was put forward by independent group leader Tony Sharps, who threatened to ‘name and shame’ those who didn’t get back to him.

Mr Isherwood, who represents the Welsh Conservatives, said he had also experienced similar problems.

He said: “Councillors voted to take action over these concerns, subsequent to which the chief executive pledged to tackle the issue by speaking to chief officers.

“However, in my experience on behalf of constituents, such delays are commonplace – I’ve had to refer them to the Ombudsman in the past.

“I have one case with the chief executive himself, where an autistic adult had to go to the Ombudsman to get action after this non-response was escalated to stage one and stage two complaints, which were never responded to either.

“When is somebody going to get a grip of these circumstances, and ensure that this culture no longer continues?”

Cllr Sharps first raised the issue in May 2017, and guidance was created to improve response times, but he claimed it did not have any impact.

However, the delays highlighted by Mr Isherwood were dismissed by the Welsh Government’s cabinet secretary for local government.

Alun Davies AM said it was a subject he should take up with the local authority.

He added: “It is not a matter for the minister here in Cardiff to second guess the decisions of a local authority in any part of the country.”

A Flintshire Council spokesman said the authority was ‘surprised’ by Mr Isherwood’s comments and had not been directly contacted by him.

He said: “The council debate earlier this year about complaints that Flintshire County Council officers were ‘not responding to calls and e-mails’ from residents is a matter of public record.

“While work is already underway on a performance report to be presented to councillors on case and complaint handling, it must be noted that performance by many council services in this area is already good.

“The council has not received a direct complaint from Mark Isherwood AM  about overall case management performance and are surprised that he chose to raise this on the floor of the Senedd.”

The spokesman added the council cooperates fully with the Ombudsman’s Service.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter.

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