Thursday 20 July 2017

Councils baffled by unusual queries

Council customer service centres handle more than 50 million calls each year
Council customer service centres handle more than 50 million calls each year

Trying to register the death of a person who is not yet dead, asking where pest control officers buy their rifles, and seeking an explanation of the plot of an 18th century play are some of the more unusual queries that council call centres have dealt with over the past year.

Council customer service centres handle more than 50 million calls each year, most of which are from people wanting information about council tax, environmental services or parking.

But one caller to Surrey County Council wanted to know whether he was allowed to roll up a zebra crossing, while another wanted to speak to staff at a library to inquire whether she had left her false teeth there.

Baroness Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "These examples show just how broad a range of issues council staff deal with each day. Councils literally have to be ready for anything from the mundane to the mind-boggling."

In Northumberland, a German man went into the customer services reception area declaring he wanted political asylum.

He refused to leave despite staff explaining that people who live in Europe are free to come and go as they please, and eventually the police had to be called.

A motorist who thought her car was in a different parking spot when she returned from a shopping trip rang Sutton Council to ask if the car park was haunted, while another resident asked whether he could put a dead fox in his recycling bin.

Baroness Eaton said: "Councils try to help callers with support and advice as much as they possibly can. While the vast majority of calls fall within the bounds of councils' usual responsibilities, there are occasions when call handlers are left baffled.

"The fact that councils are so often the first port of call for residents who are seeking a solution to their problems shows just how central a role councils play in the lives of their communities."

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