02/12/2014 10:54 EST | Updated 04/14/2014 05:59 EDT

City ombudsman's report highlights service complaints

City of Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean released her annual report Wednesday and said she's seeing more complaints about poor public service from residents who deal with the city.

Crean said her staff dealt with 1,827 complaints in 2013, an increase of 28% over the year before.

She said about 70 per cent of the complaints involved poor communication by city staff, an increase from 55 per cent in 2012 and 45 per cent in 2011.

She said a large percentage of the complaints she handled this year came from residents complaining about slow service and rude treatment from city staff. She also cited instances where city staff failed to give residents accurate, timely information in their dealings with the city.

Her report cites a case in which a business owner let her licence lapse due to an illness. The business owner was told she'd need to submit building plans to get her licence back from the city. The plans were in the possession of the landlord.

After the ombudsman intervened, staff acknowledged they could have told the woman to get the plans from the city’s building staff since they had already been filed there.

In other instances, Crean said residents dealing with flooded basements often received poor service from city staff.

Crean acknowledged that public servants at the city are working to maintain service levels with fewer staff.

"It's a difficult time, there's no question that resources are tight," she said.

“Some of the growth can be attributed to the [ombudsman's] office becoming more widely known,” she added. “But the demonstrated increase in social inequality is clearly another factor.  People are increasingly turning to programs such as subsidized child care, public housing and social assistance to ensure their well being.”

The city agencies most complained about in 2013 were Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the Toronto Transit Commission and the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Division.