Staggering cost of council failures in Milton Keynes is revealed

Council failures in customer service have been estimated to be costing Milton Keynes Council at least £2million.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 1:48 pm
View of the Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee at work from the press bench

Councillors are carrying out a line by line scrutiny of budget items and this week they looked at the council’s customer services transformation programme.

“What is the cost of failure?” asked Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney) at Tuesday’s meeting of the Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee.

Tracey Tudor, the council’s head of customer service and digital transformation, who has been tasked with sorting it all out, said it was “around the £2million mark, but it could be higher.”

The council has around 40 ways the public can contact the council over things like benefits, rents, council tax, and bin collections. The council has so far looked at 11 of those in the biggest spending departments and found the costs of errors to be massive.

Tracey Tudor explained that the kinds of failures they had found were when members of the public did not understand what the council was telling them in various forms of communication. They then ring up and asks for things to be explained, or for more detail.

There are also cases of the council believing that work had been carried out, but customers saying it had not.

“We cannot tell you the total cost without doing further analysis,” she added.

The council has set itself a target of saving £1million over the next three years, and has started a transformation programme to do this. They have their eyes on the 870,000 letters they send out in the post every year, and doing more things online.

They are also looking at better use of the Civic Offices, and “absolutely everything,” she added, including having just one contact centre for members of the public to use.

Tracey Tudor added: “Rather than looking at simply lifting and shifting, we are being very self-reflective about the issues. We’re looking at productivity, performance, and ways to prevent demand coming in in the first place.”

Cllr Geary said he had an example of a pothole in his ward which wasn’t quite deep enough to repair, but was the subject of constant complaints.

“It cost £2,000 to tell people the pothole wasn’t deep enough to fill in,” he said. “It would have been cheaper to just fill it in, rather than waiting for the inevitable.”