A TOTAL of 68 complaints made against local authorities in Devon were upheld by the local government and social care ombudsman last year.

The ombudsman investigates complaints from residents who feel the councils have not adequately addressed their concerns.

Devon County Council topped the chart with 28 of the 38 investigated complaints upheld (74 per cent), compared with an 80 per cent average for similar authorities.

Eleven complaints between April 2022 and March 2023 related to special educational needs, where fault was found in the way the authority dealt with children’s education, health and care (EHC) plan assessments, and delays in SEND provision.

Other complaints included school transport, building control, care charging, and the failure to review a resident’s occupational therapy assessment which meant another council completed unsuitable adaptations to her property.

The council has made payments to complainants, promised improvements, reviewed processes and recommended how to remedy the injustices.

In Torbay, 17 of the 23 complaints investigated (74 per cent) were upheld, the average for similar authorities is 72 per cent. They ranged from complaints about housing, public transport, child protection, enforcement and planning and special educational needs.

In similar-sized Plymouth, 14 out of 21 complaints (67 per cent) were upheld.

Four related to special educational needs and others included residential care, the council’s handling of maintenance issues and problems with the refuse collection.

One of two detailed investigations carried out into complaints made against Exeter City Council were upheld; East Devon District Council and North Devon Council had two detailed investigations upheld, and Mid Devon and West Devon had one each.

In Teignbridge two out of three complaints investigated were upheld.

There were no complaints against Torridge District Council or South Hams District Council.

West Devon Borough Council’s audit and governance committee said on paper the authority’s level of performance looked bad, with 100 per cent of complaints upheld, when the average for similar authorities was 59 per cent, but one complaint against them was investigated.

The complaint was about the council’s delay in handling complaints. The council promised to improve and offered £100 as a goodwill gesture.

Eight complaints were referred to the local government ombudsman in West Devon but seven did not progress, either because the ombudsman did not have the powers to deal with them or they were not worthwhile investigating.

Councillors were told that most complaints were from residents wanting planning decisions overturned, but only procedural failures are investigated.

Alison Stephenson