West Dunbartonshire Council’s handling of complaints by residents has been described as “insufficient” after it was given a red grading during a recent audit.

An in-depth review of the local authority’s complaint handling processes and procedures wielded uncomfortable results for the council with auditors raising fears complaints from the public were not recorded properly, giving the service an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement.’

A lack of a centralised recording of complaints system was blamed for the failure with assessors noting the lacklustre approach resulted in complainants experiencing delays to seeing their query resolved.

The report, which will be handed to members of the audit committee this week, read: “The Corporate Complaints team log all complaints received on a central spreadsheet and send details of the complaint to the relevant service for investigation.

“However, the audit identified that where services receive complaints directly, these are not always recorded, or are recorded locally and are not routinely sent to the Corporate Complaints team to record on the central spreadsheet.

“We were not able to reconcile complaint records held locally against the central spreadsheet.

“This has resulted in some complainants experiencing delays in receiving an acknowledgment or responses to their complaints which may result in adverse criticism of the Council’s complaints handling process.

“There is also a risk that corporate reporting on complaints is not complete and does not allow for root cause analysis of complaints and identifying any lessons learned.”

The document goes on to say it is a democratic right of residents to make a complaint whenever they feel there has been a failure in services provided by the council, and it is up to the council to have “effective process and controls” in place to manage these complaints.

However, alongside the red grading for the recording of complaints, WDC were handed amber gradings – meaning weakness – for the handling of complaints to councillors, adequacy of procedures and reporting and staff training on complaints.

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson said: "We welcome this scrutiny and the opportunity to enhance our service.

“We take all feedback seriously and work hard to resolve any complaints quickly as well as taking steps to prevent them happening again.

“The internal audit identified some areas for improvement, and we have revised our processes accordingly to ensure all service areas properly record and address complaints.”