Have you been left hanging on the telephone? Claims callers are left waiting as they ring Sunderland council

Councillor Celia Gofton, cabinet member for responsive services and customer care.
Councillor Celia Gofton, cabinet member for responsive services and customer care.
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Council chiefs have disputed claims callers have waited up to an hour and a half to get through to an operator when they call up for help with their services.

Sunderland’s Liberal Democrats say they have found Sunderland City Council is “one of the worst in the country” for answering the phone to residents.

Lib Dem campaigner for Pennywell and South Hylton Stephen OBrien.

Lib Dem campaigner for Pennywell and South Hylton Stephen OBrien.

Figures released by the party state one caller to the council waited 98 minutes before their call was answered.

Another resident was kept on hold for 83 minutes, with the third longest call to the council waiting 75 minutes before they were connected to an operator.

The party says figures come from calls made to the council between April 1 2015 and March 31 2016, which the Lib Dems say puts Sunderland in fourth place for the longest waiting times.

Lib Dem campaigner for Pennywell and South Hylton, Stephen O’Brien, said: “It’s just not on that people are waiting over an hour to speak to the council – many residents tell me that they give up and hang up before they ever get through to anyone.

It is vital that the council doesn’t leave people hanging on the telephone for hours.

Lib Dem campaigner for Pennywell and South Hylton Stephen O’Brien

“I appreciate that the council provides information and services online and in person at places like libraries, for many elderly or vulnerable residents contacting the council by telephone is the only way to get issues like flytipping and potholes reported or to get answers to their questions.

“It is vital that the council doesn’t leave people hanging on the telephone for hours.”

The party’s leader Tim Farron MP added: “People shouldn’t be kept hanging on the end of a phone for hours on end simply to talk to their local council – it is outrageous.

“Councils have to get the basics right and I hope those making their residents wait for such long periods to talk to someone will look at this and put things right.”

However, cabinet member for responsive services and customer care, Councillor Cecilia Gofton, said: “This is by no means representative of customer waiting times in Sunderland.

“The vast majority of calls are answered speedily.

“During 2015/16 81% of the 902,883 calls received were answered within 60 seconds.”