The Chair of a Committee looking at Luton Borough Council’s performance has accused the Council of “fiddling the figures” in respect of appalling performance in answering the phones – in the very month the Call Centre celebrates its fifth anniversary.
Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Pantling, Chair of the Council’s Performance, Resources and Assets Scrutiny Committee, says the Labour Council is being less than honest with the public when it comes to reporting how they have been doing.
Liberal Democrats recently revealed that in the 7 months that Labour have run the Council, from May to December, 7 out of 10 calls into the Council went unanswered. For calls relating to Benefits, where the Council have taken up to an average 10 weeks to process claims – leaving many residents worried about their housing position – the situation on the phones was worse still, with 8 out of 10 people failing to get through.
Councillor Pantling says the Council has not been reporting these figures, and that public Performance reports have used figures “massaged” to make things look better.
For example, a report covering calls into to the Customer Call Centre between July and September stated that around a third of calls about Benefits issues (34%) were answered in 30 seconds. But Councillor Pantling says the true figure was under 5% – less than 1 in 20 – with 82% of calls about Benefits (4 out of 5) not being answered at all.
This is because the numbers reported ignore all calls that don’t get through, or where people give up waiting – and state the figure only as a proportion of calls answered. With most calls not answered, this massively skews the true position.
“It’s bad enough that as we reach the fifth anniversary of the Council’s Call Centre, their ability to pick up the phone has plummeted, with seven out of ten calls going unanswered between May and December.” says Cllr Pantling.
“What’s worse is that we had to ask repeated questions to get to the real figures. The Council had upped its performance on benefits related calls sevenfold by deciding that the very people who can’t get through, don’t count!!”