NOTEBOOK: COUNCILLORS ‘GET BACK TO WORK’ CALL DISMISSED BY CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Dumbarton Labour councillor David Bride is fed up with the whole business.

There’s an election coming up in May and he doesn’t believe he can truthfully give the voting public an assurance that they are getting value for money they pay for council tax.

He wants to see a re-opening and soon of the Church Street headquarters – and all the other offices too.

Cllr McBride has criticised the lack of staff within the headquarters, and is far from happy with the cocktail of challenges plea in mitigation from the Chief Executive.

A few months ago, it was reported how at least 20,000 calls to West Dunbartonshire Council went unanswered and that the electorate were losing patience with their councillors.

Cllrr McBride, who was told that just six call-centre staff are currently working in Church Street, none of them closely with the public, but councillors are working face-to-face with people.

He is reported to have said: “We’re doing our surgeries face-to-face; we’re going to community meetings face-to-face. At the meetings I’ve been attending, I find it very difficult standing up for the performance of this council.

“It is becoming clear to me that there will hardly be a member of the public in Church Street until 2022. I  don’t think councillors are being treated seriously over the concerns we are raising.

““Six staff being back [at work] in the contact centre does not seem to me  like a vast return to work when we know people can’t get through on the phones.

“Genuinely I am amazed we’ve not got almost 100 percent of people back. I can only take that from somebody who spends a fair chunk of their day taking calls from residents.

“I’m frustrated that I’m becoming the first point of contact for residents, and I’m sure other members feel the same. I have to put on record my extreme disappointment.”

Chief executive Joyce White responded by informing members that the average wait time for a call to be answered by the council’s contact centre was just two minutes. There was no band playing in the background.

She said: “I would apologise for any inconvenience caused to residents as a result of the pandemic.  I’d ask for people to be patient with us. Some of the queues on the phone lines are because of repeat calls.

“People and our communities have an expectation that we are back to normal business. We are not. We are still in a pandemic and still responding as well as recovering.  My understanding is that physically being located is not the absolute answer to dealing with the backlog of calls.”

However, this prompted further questions from Cllr McBride, who remarkably received support from none other than the SNP group leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, who said: “I share the frustrations expressed by Councillor McBride.  We have been told for a long time that the biggest issue with customer service is because of the limitations of home-working.

“To now be told that isn’t the case is, at best, quite confusing for elected members.  This is an issue that has been raised time and time again by elected members across the chamber. It’s an issue that needs to be resolved urgently.”

Ms White responded: “Working from home is one of the many factors that presents us challenges.  There is no magic Pixie Dust that is going to fix this. It will take time to recover. There is a backlog.  We are facing a cocktail of challenges.”

  • It will take a great deal more than ‘Pixie Dust’ to take the pressure off the Council staff. The Democrat is currently working on a a piece of investigative reporting.  The story, when it is published here, will blow the roof off the Burgh Hall and bring calls for special measures to be brought in [grudgingly, no doubt by the SNP government] to take over the administration of our basket case council. And while we are discussing the Burgh Hall lying empty, can I just ask why it was not considred as a venue for Dumbarton old folk for booster jabs instead of them having to travel out to Alexandria? It’s a no brainer as far as I am concerned. Editor

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