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Government to create single Public Service Ombudsman

The government is to create a new single Public Service Ombudsman (PSO) designed to make it as “simple as possible” for UK citizens to pursue a complaint about public services. 

It means that the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) and Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) will come under the remit of the new PSO. 

Following the Cabinet Office’s consultation paper – A Public Service Ombudsman – some housing sector representatives raised concerns about the inclusion of the Housing Ombudsman in the plans. 

After considering this, the government said the new service will encompass the existing jurisdictions of PHSO and LGO only in the first instance “with a framework that allows others to join over time”. 

The Housing Ombudsman welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a new PSO and to keep the Housing Ombudsman Service as a separate entity. 

“Our surveys of tenants and landlords show high levels of satisfaction with the service, both in terms of the help we provide and the way we treat them,” it added. “This was reflected in landlords and tenants organisations’ evidence to the government’s consultation on the PSO, which expressed substantial support for an independent Housing Ombudsman.” 

Under the new proposals, the government said it wants the PSO to use its expertise and insight to “monitor and champion improvements in complaints handling”. 

For instance, it will be given powers to publish guidance, reports and training materials promoting best practice in complaints handling including principles, processes and analysis. 

In response to the announcement, the LGO and PHSO jointly said: “The current complaint system is far too complex and fragmented, leaving people confused as to which ombudsman to turn to if things go wrong or haven’t been resolved locally. 

“We’ve long been calling for the creation of a single Public Ombudsman Service to make it easier for people to complain when they have been let down by a public service. We will continue to offer our support to government and Parliament as they make these vital reforms a reality.” 

The new PSO will continue to report to Parliament on its investigations, including where it appears that the injustice caused to an individual has not been remedied. However, the government said: “We will not make the findings of PSO binding.” 

It added that it will now continue to develop the detail and “will work with interested parties to clarify further the role, structure, governance, and accountability of the new service”. Draft legislation, which sets out the detail of the proposals for further consideration, is expected before the end of the current Parliamentary session.


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