Complaints soar but council still pleased with perfomance

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COMPLAINTS to the council rocketed last year according to new figures but overall the authority hit the vast majority of its targets.

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) met 93 per cent of its main aims for 2010/11 but formal complaints went up by 86 per cent, from 111 in 2009/10 to 207 last year.

HBC leader Cllr Jeremy Birch put the rise down to a new culture around the complaints process. He said: “We have improved the way we log formal complaints and I would actually encourage people to complain if they are not satisfied with something. We want to learn from them and find out if we are doing things wrong or if we can do things better.”

Elsewhere the figures give an interesting insight into the council’s performance since Labour took control. Council tax collection is at an all time high, the number of benefit cheats prosecuted beat the target by almost 50 per cent and crime was down across the board, although alarmingly next year’s target predicts a sharp rise.

Environmentally, HBC failed to improve litter levels by anything like its 10 per cent target, and only 25 per cent of the town’s waste was sent for recycling, as opposed to the 30 per cent target.

Although leisure centre use fell sharply because of the closure of Summerfield over the winter, and the number of people using the East and West Hill lifts was 30,000 less than hoped, the White Rock Theatre enjoyed a bumper year with a 17 per cent jump in audiences from 71,180 to 83,474.

The number of shows went up from 195 to 240 (a 23 per cent rise) and theatre director Elizabeth Jones said: “There’s no doubt we’ve had a very good year. It’s partly due to our very successful pantomime but across the year we had some great events, including the dance company Flawless, Jools Holland and a host of top-name comedians.

“We’re expecting this year to be another bumper year, with Sid Owen starring in the pantomime and visits from Jimmy Carr, Stephen Merchant and The Osmonds.

“We’re also about to install a new ticketing system which will make it far easier for people to book online – a valuable resource in this busy world.”

Another success story was the Old Town Hall Museum which beat its target for visitors by 36 per cent, while the Hastings Museum website also attracted 40,000 more users than expected.

The number of days lost to staff sickness went up slightly after a sharp fall in 2009/10 but the percentage of women in top management positions rose to an impressive 37 per cent, well above the council target.

Cllr Birch said: “I think the performance of the council overall has been very good despite the very challenging financial circumstances.”