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'Customer service' at City Hall falls short of 'excellence'
Ombudsman Fiona Crean says complaints to her office were up 28 per cent in 2013 over the year before
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A new annual report from Toronto's public service watchdog casts doubt on whether Rob Ford is delivering on his promise of 'customer service excellence.'

Complaints to Ombudsman Fiona Crean's office were up 28 percent in 2013, compared to 2012.  

She says there is a "worrisome rise in poor communications" by city employees.

Just over 1,800 complaints were filed and of those, 70 percent of them were from residents who felt left in the dark by the public service.

Crean says her office hears accusations of staffers not returning phone calls, employees behaving rudely, and complaints from residents who have had to endure long waits for fixes to problems that need attention immediately, while being left with little to no information that explains what is being done to help them.

"Its the notion that somehow (the problem) is the resident's problem, and not the public servant's," she adds.

While Crean calls the rising trend of complaints about poor communication from city hall "unacceptable," she says overall, Toronto's public service does a good job with resources that are stretched thin.

The Ombudsman believes Toronto's rising poverty is also to blame for the spike in complaints.

"People are becoming poorer.  The waiting list for subsidized child care is over 15,000 now, 'working-poor' has spiked from about 16 percent to 21 percent," she says.

"The greater the marginalization, the more residents depend on government services."

Crean adds that her office has noticed 'a tremendous increase' in 'unacceptable' behaviour in the people who have come to file complaints.

They seem to be more desperate than they've ever been.

Her staff has filed reports of complainants "shouting, cussing ... we have had to call (city hall) security on a number of occasions," she says.

Crean says often those are 'people who lose their jobs, who lose their housing -- that's a pretty desperate situation," she says.

Crean says staffing cutbacks at city hall are putting employees under pressure to do more with less but adds managers have all the tools they need to ensure performance standards are met.

The Ombudsman says she has met with Toronto's City Manager to discuss the findings of her report.

Mayor Rob Ford, who campaigned on promises to make city services more efficient, says his administration has accomplished 'a lot' over the 3 years since he was elected.

"As long as I'm Mayor, its going to become perfect but we're far from it now," Ford says, "I think people are going to get pink slips if they don't start responding to tax payers when they call."

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A new annual report from Toronto's public service watchdog casts doubt on whether Rob Ford is delivering on his promise of 'customer service excellence.'

Complaints to Ombudsman Fiona Crean's office were up 28 percent in 2013, compared to 2012.  

She says there is a "worrisome rise in poor communications" by city employees.

Just over 1,800 complaints were filed and of those, 70 percent of them were from residents who felt left in the dark by the public service.

Crean says her office hears accusations of staffers not returning phone calls, employees behaving rudely, and complaints from residents who have had to endure long waits for fixes to problems that need attention immediately, while being left with little to no information that explains what is being done to help them.

"Its the notion that somehow (the problem) is the resident's problem, and not the public servant's," she adds.

While Crean calls the rising trend of complaints about poor communication from city hall "unacceptable," she says overall, Toronto's public service does a good job with resources that are stretched thin.

The Ombudsman believes Toronto's rising poverty is also to blame for the spike in complaints.

"People are becoming poorer.  The waiting list for subsidized child care is over 15,000 now, 'working-poor' has spiked from about 16 percent to 21 percent," she says.

"The greater the marginalization, the more residents depend on government services."

Crean adds that her office has noticed 'a tremendous increase' in 'unacceptable' behaviour in the people who have come to file complaints.

They seem to be more desperate than they've ever been.

Her staff has filed reports of complainants "shouting, cussing ... we have had to call (city hall) security on a number of occasions," she says.

Crean says often those are 'people who lose their jobs, who lose their housing -- that's a pretty desperate situation," she says.

Crean says staffing cutbacks at city hall are putting employees under pressure to do more with less but adds managers have all the tools they need to ensure performance standards are met.

The Ombudsman says she has met with Toronto's City Manager to discuss the findings of her report.

Mayor Rob Ford, who campaigned on promises to make city services more efficient, says his administration has accomplished 'a lot' over the 3 years since he was elected.

"As long as I'm Mayor, its going to become perfect but we're far from it now," Ford says, "I think people are going to get pink slips if they don't start responding to tax payers when they call."

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