TOO many people are going straight to an official watchdog when they want to complain about the council.

That was the conclusion reached by East Ayrshire’s Governance and Scrutiny committee when they met last week.

They were told that the 72 per cent of people with grievances took them to the Ombudsman, which is twice the Scottish average of 36 per cent.

These are classed as premature complaints which are then referred back to the council as the Ombudsman can only intervene when all stages of the complaints procedure have been exhausted locally.

Chairman of the committee, Barry Douglas, asked deputy chief executive Alex McPhee: “Why do people go straight to the Ombudsman? Why do they know they can go there but not to their local authority?”

Mr McPhee said that the council tries to make people aware of the system through publicity, leaflets and the website, but concluded they were clearly not doing enough.

He added: “We are not in the business of hiding away. We do value people telling us when we have got it wrong. Anyone not happy with a council department is advised of the complaints procedure.”

In many of the cases, when a resident had made a complaint to the Ombudsman it was referred back to the council and solved.

A complaint is defined as ‘an expression of dissatisfaction by one or more members of the public about the council’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the council.’ Of 139 complaints made to East Ayrshire Council in 2016/17, 25 were upheld, 36 partially upheld and 78 not upheld.

Several case studies were included in last week’s report to the governance committee, with the complainants identity withheld.

One resident complained to the council about a number of issues pertaining to the common repairs service.

Following investigation, the council upheld part of the complaint establishing that communications between the council and the complainant should have been clearer and that administrative errors should not have occurred.

The council apologised for these failures and implemented improved communication practices for the common repairs service.

In another, a householder was frustrated at the noise levels created by a recycling centre nearby.

Following investigation, the council upheld part of the complaint , altering the starting time of works within the recycling centre and installing upgraded reversing alarms on vehicles.

Other incidents led to new procedures within the education and social work departments.