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30.06.15

‘Unprecedented’ rise in councils challenging Ombudsman decisions

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has seen an “unprecedented” increase in the number of councils challenging its decisions and failing to comply with its recommendations, a new report has revealed.

The LGO’s Annual Review of Local Government Complaints notes “a small but unprecedented increase in the number of councils refusing to implement our recommendations”.

A number of these sought to publicly challenge the validity of LGO decisions through the media and the Ombudsman uses the report to remind councils that the only formal way to challenge its findings is through the courts.

“While councils ultimately have the democratic right to choose how to implement LGO recommendations, these few instances raise a question about how councils are held to account if they fail to comply with the recommendations of its ombudsman,” an LGO statement said.

The report also shows that the complaints system in local government is under increasing pressure.

It suggests that many councils are dealing with increasing numbers of complaints and have fewer resources available to manage them due to staff numbers being cut in complaint handling teams.

The warning is also backed by research that found that, on average, people spent nine months trying to resolve their complaint before coming to the LGO, and 43% of people were not told that they could approach the LGO for an independent review.

The report also releases the LGO’s data for the complaints it received in 2014-15. It registered 18,211 complaints and enquiries about councils, and upheld 46% of all complaints where it carried out a detailed investigation. Within its total number of complaints there was a 10% increase in adult social care complaints and an 11% decrease in complaints about benefits and tax.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said: “Our findings point to a local complaints system that is under real pressure. Complaint handling teams are having to do ‘more with less’ and the process is not as accessible and timely as it should be.

“More investment into complaints, both in terms of resources and developing an open culture, is a good value way of driving service improvement – and local government needs to challenge itself on this question. Complaints must be seen as a positive. They can provide an early warning system for issues and are an indicator of public sentiment. 

"We hope that by sharing our data and knowledge from complaints, we can help with this process by promoting local accountability for actions, and allowing better scrutiny of services.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opininon@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Reg Barritt   10/04/2016 at 12:42

I have recently had cause to complain tot he LGO and have found the standard of service utterly unsatisfactory. I have been completely let down by way of a failure by the LGO to even accurately assess the evidence I had submitted in its determination not to purse my complaint about a refusal to speak at a local council meeting. . My understanding is that due to underfunding and a weakening of its powers the LGO will find every reason not to pursue a complaint. No wonder so few members of the public want these days to be engaged by confrontational and dismissive local government who treat us with such contempt. Democratic accountability and access to justice is as a result eroded. It is said if an individual or organisation is not part of the solution they are part of the problem and so it is that the LGO has become a part of that problem.

Norman   10/07/2016 at 22:17

The LGO because of financial cut backs are reluctant to make a decision with reference to my complaint of south Glos council not to investigate air pollution at my home .I am ill with breathing disorder and being investigated for asbestos's , The LGO Spend more man hours writing letters in relation of what they cant do rather than address a simple solution. The standard of the LGO is appalling ,

Paul Rose   21/10/2016 at 16:39

I have found out the hard way about the competences of the so called Ombudsman. I always thought that the Ombudsman occupied a place of high esteem and fair play. This is a serious misconception, the Ombudsman I dealt with was a total uninformed cretin. We are being misled that this office is impartial and trustworthy and it simply is not any of the two. How we as a society have ended up with this is beyond me! Looking at the board of the office of the Ombudsman it suspiciously looks like the influence of the "Lodge" has taken root, the clergy also seem to be invited and if they are anything to go by in todays society they represent failure on a dramatic level. I do not know where the funding for this service comes from at the moment but I will investigate further, I suspect things are not as they should be and these Old boy networks have found a way into an organization that once represented right and turned it into a body manned by imbeciles and robbed by the faceless.

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