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Report B - Analysis of some statistics from the SPSO website

A report prepared by Accountability Scotland based on SPSO website data

The data are for the years 2006/7, 2007/8, 2008/9 and 2009/10.

These are obtainable from

Because the data are presented in tables that have varied in format, the year-by-year trends are hard to see. A detailed analysis of some of the data is therefore necessary.

Notable conclusions

Over these four years the number of submissions to the SPSO accepted as ‘complaints’ each year has doubled. However, the percentage of these reaching the stage of investigation has declined from 18% to 4%.

Each year the percentage of complaints reaching the stage of investigation has been about twice as high for Health Authorities as for Local Authorities. It has been very much lower for Housing Associations, falling to 0.6% in 2009/10.

Whatever the explanation for these statistics, they are not evidence for improved usefulness of the SPSO. They do suggest a significant reduction in associated workload to the detriment of some complainants.

The following points relate to the years 2006/7, 2007/8, 2008/9 and 2009/10.

  1. The formats of the tables presenting the data are inconsistent from year to year, making it hard for the reader to discern trends in the very numerous data.
  1. The trend in number of complaints has been mostly upwards, being, in the four years, successively 1826, 2881, 2875 and 3524. However, the number of complaints reaching the stage of investigation has declined, being successively 329, 426, 201 and 143.

For the latter, the respective percentages are 18.0%, 14.8%, 7.0% and 4.1%.

Note that the number of what are called ‘complaints’ does not include enquiries and the submissions that are withdrawn or else rejected at the outset as inappropriate. 

  1. Each year the percentage of complaints reaching the investigation stage has been roughly twice as high for Health than for Local Authorities. These percentages have been even lower for Housing Associations.

These points are illustrated in the following graph, which shows, for each year and for each of those sectors, the percentage of complaints that are investigated.

The explanation for the differences between sectors is unclear, but, in addressing the Local Government and Regeneration Committee on 16 November 2011, Jim Martin wondered “whether the high number of upheld health complaints is because [he has] interventional powers in health”, but not in relation to local authorities.

The difference between health and local authorities could be responsible for the much lower levels of complainant satisfaction in regard to local authorities that we have revealed by analysis of the Craigforth report ‘Complainant survey results 2009 & 2010’ (see our Report A).