Bosses at Swindon Borough Council say the authority is getting better at answering calls, after months of poor performance, but that has not impressed one of its tenants.

Brian Wakefield, 82, lives in a three-bed council house in Pinehurst, which he used to share with his wife Catherine until she died, aged 70, in October last year.

His stepson having moved out as well, Mr Wakefield believes he is eligible for a reduction in the rent he pays to the borough council and also his council tax, because he is disabled.

But trying to get through to council staff has left him very frustrated.

He said: “There are two numbers I’ve been trying to get through to - there’s one for rent and tenancy inquiries, and one for housing benefit inquiries.

“The first one just rings without anyone picking up, I’ve been on it for up to an hour at a time, and it’s never picked up.

“The second line, the one for housing benefit inquiries, there’s a whole menu you have to go through and then it just tells you the other person has cleared and that’s it.

“It’s massively frustrating. I’ve been trying to get through to either of these lines one and off for three weeks.”

It is the borough council’s policy to try to have most of its customer interactions carried out online, and it is aiming for 85 per cent of transactions to be via its website.

But Mr Wakefield, who was an engineer, and who served for14 years in the RAF said: “I’ve been given a tablet recently but I’m not really comfortable with any of that, I’m much more of a paper and pencil man.

“I’m disabled, so it’s not easy for me to go into the council offices either, so it’s very difficult, if I can’t get through. Especially when I read the paper and it says the council’s getting better at answering the phone.”

A council spokesman said: “Between January and June this year, our customer contact centre has received an average of more than 25,000 calls a month and, as a result, people can occasionally struggle to get through at our busiest times, such as between 9 and 10am. That’s why we have taken steps to ensure that using our services online is as easy as it can be, allowing our contact centre staff to be available for those who really need it.

“We have sent Mr Wakefield the necessary forms that he needs in order to apply for help with his rent and council tax.

"If he has any difficulty completing these, we have officers available who can visit to help him complete them, as they routinely do with elderly residents.”