Headlines: August 27th, 2008

Councils could give high street store vouchers to council taxpayer’s to make up for missed appointments. That is one of the options for occasions when services don’t meet people’s expectations that are being considered as part of a drive to put more emphasis on customers in local service delivery.

The Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has announced a
new review team, which includes members from Tesco and the National Consumer Council with customer service expertise. Its brief is to ensure that people using council services are treated as consumers who know their rights if commitments are not met or services fall short.

The review is part of the wider drive to give local people more influence over the way services are delivered in their areas. Ms Blears said the challenge for local authorities to meet high customer care expectations and to recognise that dealing with problems was at least as great a test of their ability to deliver excellent services.

David Cook, the Chief Executive of Kettering Borough Council, who will chair the Redress Review Team, said, “Councils have become highly attuned to the needs and wants of their inspectors, but perhaps less so to the demands of their customers. Now we have an opportunity to put the customer back at the heart of our business.”

Another team member, David North, the Community and Government Director at Tesco, said his company was happy to share its experience as people had every right to expect good customer care in the wide range of services provided by their local authorities, Hazel Blears acknowledged that there had been real improvements in the standards of services provided by councils over the past ten years but added, “The new challenge for councils is to deliver better community engagement and a real increase in levels of customer satisfaction.”