Rubbish and roads top council complaints in Wales

Rubbish piling up on the Wildmill estate Image copyright Nicola Roberts
Image caption Rubbish has been seen piling up on the Wildmill estate in Bridgend, where resident share communal bins

Bins and roads are the most complained about council services in Wales as people demand more from authorities despite cuts.

The 22 local authorities told BBC Wales those are the areas which received the most complaints in the last five years.

Psychologists said bins and roads top the list because people come across them daily.

The Welsh Local Government Association said the "vast majority" of people were satisfied with council services.

"People are responding to physical change they are seeing," said Prof James Downe, director of research at the Wales Centre for Public Policy.

"There's been a gradual process in the increases in public expectations. People expect the councils to behave like a top private sector organisation.

Image caption Potholes in roads lead to anger among some motorists

"In Wales, there are 22 local authorities each with different strengths and weaknesses.

"Planning, waste and highways have significant cuts and it wouldn't be surprising if complaints in those areas increase."

Prof Downe said while council tax only makes up a small proportion of council funding, from a public perspective, people are paying more and may feel some services are worse.

But he added: "A lot of these problems are being caused by themselves.

"If you are throwing rubbish on the street or not using a tip, the council has to clean this up, so the public have responsibilities."

Dr Martin Graff, a reader in psychology at the University of South Wales, believes social media has played its part in making it easier to complain.

He said: "It gives people the facility to vent a little bit. It's available all of the time.

"You share something with friends and it reinforces ideas.

"People almost create their own news now. People complain and mention businesses in social media."

But Daniel Hurford, head of policy at the Welsh Local Government Association, said data showed many council services were improving and the Welsh Government's national survey found the majority of people were satisfied with council services.

'Improve services'

He added: "The impact of austerity and cuts to funding of some council services inevitably impacts on the number of complaints received.

"Services such as highways, transport or waste tend to generate the highest number of complaints as these are the most visible, relied on and most regularly used services."

Mr Hurford said public opinion surveys showed the public "generally tend to care most" about issues such as litter, fly-tipping and uncollected waste, which leads to complaints.

"Similarly with regards highways, most members of the public use them every day so service issues tend to get reported and reported regularly," he added.

"For example, the same pothole will be reported many times over by many road users.

"Councils use complaints to help improve services, not only to respond to a particular service incident but also to see if the issue points to broader service-wide improvements that could be made."

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