February 12, 2014 8:50 pm

Complaints to city up nearly 30 per cent over last year: Ombudsman

Watch the video above: Toronto Ombudsman sees jump in complaints, “rudeness” from bureaucrats. Alan Carter reports. 

TORONTO – Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean cites lack of communication and information given to residents as some of the main reasons why city service complaints jumped nearly 30 per cent compared to a year ago.

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“Fully 70 per cent of the complaints involved poor communication by city staff and inadequate information being given to residents. This is an increase from 55 per cent in 2012, and 40 per cent in 2011,” says Crean in her 2013 Annual Report released Wednesday.

But Mayor Rob Ford suggested – despite the increasing number of complaints – that customer service is getting better and will be “perfect” under his watch.

“It’s come a long way but they are still far from perfect,” he said. “Things are changing but it’s going to take a lot of years to turn the culture around in here. We’ve done a lot in three years and in the next five years or ten years, as long as I’m mayor, it’s going to become perfect.”

But Crean said employees are stretched thin as a result of over 2500 staff not being replaced over several years.

Councillor David Shiner rejected the idea there was a culture of rudeness at city hall.

“I don’t believe it’s a culture in there. I believe that people are being pressed in their jobs, and when you’ve got that many people off of work and others have to cover it, there are some problems,” he said.

The report shows staff dealt with 1827 complaints in 2013, an increase of 28 per cent over the year before.

“Some of the growth can be attributed to the office becoming more widely known,” says Crean. “But the demonstrated increase in social inequality is clearly another factor. People are increasingly turning to programs such as subsidized child care, public housing and social assistance to ensure their well being.”

The report revealed there was a significant increase in complaints in all parts of Toronto, but most notably in the former cities of Etobicoke, North York and York.

The city agencies most complained about in 2013 were Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the Toronto Transit Commission and the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Division.

The reports comes just months after Crean announced an investigation into red tape at city hall.

The Ombudsman said a review of complaints by staff members over the past four years revealed that more than 50 per cent of them have some elements of red tape.

“It actually blocks residents from getting the fair and equitable service they are entitled to,” Crean said in November.

The Ombudsman investigates public complaints independent of city government and reports to the legislative body, which is Toronto City Council.

The office makes recommendations to change conduct, practice or policy that uncovers improper administration.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti was not available for an interview for this story.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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