EDUCATION and children’s services were by far the most complained about aspects of Swindon Borough Council’s work last year.

Members of the authority’s Conservative cabinet will discuss a report on complaints made to the Local Government Ombudsman at a meeting tonight.

The report says over the course of the year 59 complaints were made about the council to the watchdog – eight were about adult social care, eight about budgeting and taxation, four about the environment or public protection, six on highways, six on housing, one about corporate services, four about ‘other’ issues and 22 about education and children’s services.

That compares favourably with the 79 complaints made against Wiltshire Council and the 93 against Gloucestershire County Council

Only seven of the 59 made were upheld – but ombudsman Michael King had some warning words when he wrote to the council’s chief executive Susie Kemp.

He wrote: "It is disappointing that in three cases, remedies were not completed within the agreed timescales and we had to chase the council to achieve compliance.

"While I appreciate the pressures local authorities are under, delays in implementing remedies can add to complainants’ injustice.

“My investigators have also noted concern about your council’s failure to follow statutory complaint procedures and taking too long to respond to our enquiries.

"Although we have not investigated many complaints against your council this year, there has been delay in responding to half of our enquiries (three out of six cases).

"Delays add to the frustration experienced by complainants and can cause further avoidable distress and uncertainty.”

Cabinet member for organisational excellence Robert Jandy said: “The council takes all complaints seriously and where appropriate adjust and improve our processes accordingly.

“We will continue to review our systems to ensure that we minimise any delay in providing responses.

“The main areas of learning from all upheld reports have been to ensure we keep contact with residents throughout the process of their complaint, and to form a more consistent approach to dealing with complaints corporately.”

:: ONE householder said the council was wrong to grant planning permission for an extension on his neighbour’s house which blocked light from his kitchen.

The ombudsman found the council was “at fault for having an unclear policy, for a failure to inform its planning committee of that policy, and for breach of an undertaking to enforce a breach of planning permission".

The council was told to pay the householder compensation not just for the blockage of the light but for his time and trouble in trying to get it remedied.

Six cases where fault was found

:: A woman complained about a poor standard of care offered to her at night and the watchdog found this caused her distress and anxiety. The council agreed to apologise and pay compensation and review its policy.

:: The ombudsman says in one complaint a householder shouldn’t be paid compensation, but should be paid an undisclosed sum because of the trouble he took to complain and the distress he felt over the delay in implementing promised parking restrictions. The man said one of the reasons he bought his house was because such restrictions were promised.

:: A couple was given £250 by the borough council as an apology because the authority failed to arrange contact with their grandchildren who were going into council care. The ombudsman also found fault with the way officers communicated with the couple and they way they dealt with their complaint.

:: When Swindon Borough Council sent a parking fine to the wrong house, it increased the penalty when it wasn’t paid and asked enforcement agents to get involved, causing the wronged motorist injustice because he had to pay much higher fine, the watchdog found. This will cost Euclid Street £550 in compensation and an apology to the car owner.

:: A couple going through child protection procedures were not given the support they deserved from the council, and their complaint was upheld. The couple will receive compensation and the council will change the way it proceeds in future.