GETTING through to the council to report a complaint is a “near-impossibility”, according to one senior Fife Councillor.

Conservative group leader Councillor Dave Dempsey has called for improvements so householders needing help can get issues resolved much faster.

“I’ve been contacted a few times lately about missed bin collections, made worse by the near-impossibility of getting through on the phone to report them,” he explained.

“Members of the public report hanging on the line for tens of minutes or worse.

“Councillors have an inside track for getting the bins themselves sorted, though involving a councillor can’t be the long-term solution. Some days, we’re trapped in meetings from morning till late evening.”

Cllr Dempsey said he had been informed that the council’s contact centre had lost 15 per cent of staff since April.

“This forced them to concentrate on community alarm calls, social work emergencies and the like which, in fairness, are probably more urgent than bins.

"However, they’ve now realised that they’d overdone the reductions in other areas and are taking on more staff this week, so the service should improve.

“In the longer term, the council intends to switch more and more of its general enquiries to more automated channels. I now report road faults through FifeDirect.

"I can include a photo, the information goes straight into the database and I get an emailed acknowledgement, all without any human intervention.”

Back in May, a call centre employee contacted the Press to raise concerns about a “staffing crisis” which they claimed was affecting the mental health of those working in the centre.

As well as creating stressed-out workers, the member of staff said the lack of manpower at New City House meant anyone trying to phone the council’s environment, housing, faults and repairs, passes and concessions or money and payments lines could find themselves with a wait of between 30 and 45 minutes.

“This is due to a major staffing crisis at the contact centre which is only going to get worse as the dozen employees that are left become increasingly stressed at the workload and demands made by management,” said the employee.

“Staff members have got to a point where they have ended up in tears or are now going sick from work due to stress. They all feel they have no support and if concerns are raised, they just get a shrug of ‘Just get on with it’.”

The employee said the contact centre handled more than 1,000 calls a day but claimed that, on some occasions, there would only be three or four people available to answer, which resulted in frustrated tenants and customers taking their anger out on the staff.

Diarmuid Cotter, customer service manager, confirmed that 15 new recruits had started in the contact centre last Monday.

“Training has already begun and the six new advisers in the general team, which takes the majority of calls, can begin taking calls by next week but the training programme is almost eight weeks long, it is not instant,” he said.

“The other new recruits have already begun training in social work, the repair centre and out-of-hours/community alarm. In the meantime, we continue to point customers online where appropriate. The team are all working extremely hard under the circumstances.”