Dead rats in the loft, unemptied bins, and items “flying” off the roof of vehicles are just some of the complaints made to Test Valley Borough Council in the past year.

One complaint to the pest control team detailed how they had put down rats in their attic, but then failed to return when arranged, leaving the rodent carcasses in place. After making a complaint, they received an apology from the Environmental Health Manager, and the team returned to finish the job.

Another complainant, who had contacted the council a number of times about a missed bin collection that was causing rubbish to pile up, asked for “compensation for incompetence” from the council. In this case, an apology was given and the bin emptied.

The details of these criticisms were contained in the council’s annual complaints report, which lists the 171 service level complaints made to the council over the past year across a variety of services. This was a decrease from the previous year, when 204 complaints were received.

Top of the list for complaints were Environmental Services, which include refuse collection and green space management, with 71 complaints, while Planning Services came in second with 25.

At the bottom of the list were IT Services, which had just one complaint, while Legal and Democratic Services, the Chief Executive and Finance all had no complaints.

Communications Manager for Test Valley, Kathryn Binfield, said: “Environmental Services and Planning received the highest number of complaints, but they are also two of our services with the highest number of customer interactions. The number of complaints in relation to the number of interactions is pretty tiny.”

Of the 171 service level complaints overall, 18 were escalated to the council’s chief executive, while eight were deemed serious enough to be referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), a government body which investigates complaints against councils.

One of these complaints, regarding planning approval for a garage in a neighbouring property, was upheld by the LGSCO, which found there was “injustice.” However, the ombudsmen said that “the Council remedied any injustice caused by its fault through giving the complainant an apology.”

A further complaint, regarding a fallen tree causing damage to a property, was deemed to be outside the LGSCO’s purview, and they “advised that it would therefore be reasonable for the complainant to take the matter to court.”

The top reasons given for complaints were council error and unhappiness with the council’s actions, which were both responsible for 27 per cent of complaints.

Binfield said that while many complaints had a learning outcome for the council, not all did, “because sometimes we haven’t done anything wrong. We’ve followed all of the correct procedures but the customer disagrees with a decision or an outcome, for example.”

“The real value of complaints is that on occasion, they can bring to light issues which we can then resolve,” she said, concluding: “The amount of complaints we’ve received year on year remains relatively static, but it’s good to see there has been a slight reduction in 2019/20.”