Friday, May 03, 2013

Local Government Ombudsman Watchers Blog Frozen

Special Notice 

The unfit for purpose Local Government Ombudsman (@LGOombudsman) is now using the hash-tag #LGOlive on Twitter to advance their spin-doctoring PR "Advisory Forum".

Individual complainants now have the means to tell the Local Government Ombudsman publicly and directly what they really think about the 'service' they have received.

Please note: This blog will no longer updated. However, it (670 posts) will be left on line for reference purposes. Thanks to all those who have taken an interest in my blog posts over the years.

I would advise anyone dissatisfied with the Local Government Ombudsman to now contact the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) select committee who have twice (2005 and 2012) had the opportunity to improve the system of administrative justice in England and have demonstrably failed on both occasions.

It appears to me that they prefer to tinker with, rather than significantly improve, the current discredited system so they can continue to mask the true level of local authority wrongdoing.

I believe this is because the DCLG are also responsible for local government and the last think they would want is for the true level of local authority wrongdoing becoming public knowledge.

Footnote: Make sure any correspondence is addressed to the appropriate select committee and not the DCLG in general. The DCLG have a habit of ignoring any evidence against the Local Government Ombudsman for the reason stated above.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Post panning customer satisfaction survey...where is it?

The Local Government Ombudsman was rightly panned following a 2012 Department of Communicates and Local Government Select Committee investigation into their activities.

Since then we have been waiting for the Local Government Ombudsman to undertake a quantitative customer satisfaction survey. The reason why this event is going to be so interesting can be derived from historical customer satisfaction surveys.

Between 1999 and 2012 the Local Government Ombudsman has admitted conducting the following surveys. (There was one in 1995 but we will come to that later.)

Link to LGO current published surveys

Customer satisfaction 1999, Public awareness 2003, Customer satisfaction 2005, Customer satisfaction 2007, Customer satisfaction 2010, Adult social care complaints 2011, Communications research 2011, Staff survey 2012. Only four have to do with customer satisfaction, 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2010.

Out of these only 1999 and 2007 were quantitative in nature whilst the 2005 and 2010 were qualitative in nature. The use of a qualitative rather than quantitative surveys in 2005 was an attempt to mask the fact that no significant improvement had been achieved since their 1999 survey.

The 2007 survey is interesting in that even though the LGO excluded and even greater number of dissatisfied complainants from this survey than they did in 1999 no significant improvements had been achieved. If the LGO hadn't manipulated the results of both the 1999 and 2007 surveys they would have shown a marked and ongoing reduction in customer satisfaction since the 1995 survey. Another interesting point about the 1995 survey is that it was the last one conducted before Ex council staff were recruited as Local Government Ombudsmen.

Since then the LGO have manipulated [1 below] every quantitative customer satisfaction survey they have ever conducted and inter dispersed them with qualitative surveys to make comparison between two adjacent surveys even more difficult.

So the question is, how will the LGO mask the ever growing dissatisfaction with their service, since 1995 when they started to recruit ex council staff as LGO?

They can't put off another quantitative survey for ever and if they try to exclude any dissatisfied complaints as they increasing did in 1999 and 2007 the game will be up. So unless they employ another devious tactic in an attempt to massage the survey results the LGO are between a rock and a hard place of their own making.

Is it time for the LGO and their staff to bail out and make room for those, unconnected with local government, who can do the job properly without resorting to devious tactics to mask their ineffectiveness? I think so.

[1] In 1999 they excluded a significant percentage of dissatisfied complainants from the survey. (I should know because I was one of them). In 2007 they excluded and even greater number of dissatisfied complainants from taking part.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Same old Local Government Ombudsman, still unfit for purpose!

It's about 12 months since a Government Select Committee decided to investigate the Local Government Ombudsman and some 7 months since they published a report panning them, see my earlier posts for full details.

Although, for personal reasons, I haven't had much time to blog lately, I have still been trying to respond to the many emails I receive every week about the Local Government Ombudsman.

Whilst they all, as usual, express total dissatisfaction with the LGO, I noticed a new and disturbing trend in the choice of which devious tactic the LGO now prefers to use to stuff complainants.

The devious tactic I am referring to is the one in which the LGO rewrites a complaint to make it easier for 1) The body being complained about to defend the complaint. 2) LGO staff to refuse to investigate the complaint.

Whilst I accept there are occasions when a complaint need to be rewritten, usually because they are not very clear or concise, it looks to me like the LGO are now abusing this process. This allows them to rip out the substance of many complaints and limit their involvement and/or narrow down any subsequent investigation.

The issue I have is that this devious technique, which is now being used more and more by the LGO, is that it makes it too easy for them to cover up wrongdoing for their friends and ex colleagues in local government.

Even Tom Watson's (MP), when discussing, Hacking, Hillsborough and Paedophilia in Parliament agreed that a narrowed down investigation is the basic building-block of a cover-up.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

So has the Local Government Ombudsman improved?

It's nearly four months since the Local Government Ombudsman was panned by a government select committee. During that time I have been patiently waiting for signs of improvement.

Unfortunately, if the emails I regularly receive from complainants are anything to go by, the Local Government Ombudsmen are even worse than they were before they were panned.

When you take into account how bad they had become that couldn't have been an easy thing for them to achieve.

Instead of concentrating on improving the system of administrative justice for the benefit of complainants they appear to have concentrated their efforts on producing positive publicity (propaganda and spin) for the benefit of themselves, the authorities they are expected to investigate whilst paying lip service to the select committee's damning report.

They still appear to be using the same devious tactics that resulted in the select committee investigation in the first place. No doubt hoping that this would work on the select committee as it had done with others who had criticised them in the past.

The bottom line is the Local Government Ombudsman still doesn't get it and until they do I doubt we will see any improvement. Hopefully the select committee will see through their attempts at spin and manipulation, ask complainants directly what they really think of the service provided by the Local Government Ombudsman and then replace them with a fit for purpose system of administrative justice without any further delay.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Local government ombudsman: here's how we spin

On the 30th October 2012 Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman and chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England issued the following press release. My comments in blue italics.
Local government ombudsman: here's how we'll change 
It's just a pity they had to wait for a select committee to produce a damning report before they realised what everyone else had known for years. The Local Government Ombudsman was not fit for purpose and hadn't been for over 20 years.
In my response to the communities and local government select committee, I acknowledged the need for the local government ombudsman (LGO) to open itself up to greater scrutiny; from our peers, from our partners, from the public and from parliament.
Ironic that they have spent the last 20 years doing exactly the opposite and only decide to open themselves up after the panning they received from the select committee. Rather goes to prove that a Local Government Ombudsman's judgement isn't that good after all.
We do so at a time of radical change, when we need to ensure the quality of our service and maintain public trust and confidence in that service. It is right that we are held properly accountable for implementing our plans.
How an earth can they 'maintain' public trust and confidence when it never existed in the first place? They need to create public trust first and whilst they continue to use linguistic gymnastics to evade the issues they won't get very far. Note the last sentence of the previous paragraph. It is right that we are held properly accountable for implementing our plans. Hang on a moment, complainants want you properly accountable, period. Not just accountable for implementing your plans.
Over the next few months I will be reflecting on the way we do things so that we understand how to work with authorities and residents to fulfil our brief of effective and proportionate dispute resolution. The ombudsman will be carrying out a number of reviews of how we work, including how we handle evidence and the speed of our investigations. I will be looking again at how we can best measure customer satisfaction and also reviewing all our public information.
Waiting for a kick up the backside before reflecting on the way they do things is a sad indictment of any manager let alone a Local Government Ombudsman. When they undertake their review into the way they handle evidence I hope they decide to stop burying evidence supplied by the complainant because it contradicts what the council have told them. 

As far as speeding up investigations is concerned they could make a start by spending less time trying to bury complaints, less time trying to find 'an out' for the authority concerned and more time on doing the job they are supposed to do. 

As far as customer satisfaction is concerned all they need to do is to be open, honest and make sure their decisions are sound and not, as is their usual modus operandi, based on evidence specially selected to support their decision. They need to start reaching decisions based on all the evidence not ignoring some of it because it contradicts their decision.
I will invite colleagues from other ombudsman schemes across the UK to share their expertise and challenge us as peers, and commission an external evaluation of our work to ensure our independence, fairness, effectiveness, openness, transparency and accountability.
I seriously doubt, having spent years creating an organisation that isn't truly independent, fair, open, transparent or accountable, they will be able to change the culture of the organisation with the current staff. Especially since the most Ombudsmen, Deputy Ombudsmen, Assistant Ombudsmen and Instigators are ex council and are responsible for creating and maintaining the system recently criticised by the select committee.
Things are already beginning to change at the LGO. We have already committed to publishing all our decisions on our website – the first public sector ombudsman to do so. Not only will this mean our work is more transparent, but it will also provide information to the public and their representatives about the quality of public administration and service delivery in their area.
Things are already beginning to change at the LGO?  They could hardly stay the same, their reputation was at an all time low and the government were at long last starting to take notice.

It's not just the decisions that are important but the evidence the decision is based on. The reason why the Local Government Ombudsman is the only public sector ombudsman to be forced to publish all their decisions is because they are demonstrably the worst public sector ombudsman and simply can't be trusted to reach sound decisions based on all the available evidence. They have a track record of  ringing up the council and reaching a decision based on the unsubstantiated statements of the council  rather than the evidence presented by the complainant.

It is interesting to note that they will provide information about the quality of administration and service delivery because they have failed to do so in the past
We have undertaken a staff survey early because we recognise the importance of their contribution in making this change; we must make sure that our team is engaged in this process. This survey is only the first step in a culture change for the organisation.
I doubt staff will be happy having to be transparent with their decisions. In the past the only way they could bolster their flawed decisions was to manipulate the evidence.  
Our first overhaul of the service is to introduce a new intake and assessment process, designed to assess complaints for investigation more quickly. We are starting in our London office and are asking local authorities to work with us to speed up this process.
We will learn from this first stage before rolling it out across the organisation in April next year.
I wonder why they have just decided to introduce a system to speed things up. Ah! just remembered they were panned by a select committee otherwise they would have continued to run an unfit for purpose system of administrative justice, as they have been doing for over 20 years, when they first started to recruit ex council staff..
I hope that the public will soon start to see the benefit of all this activity and feel reassured that the LGO is delivering public value as well as value for money.
For one I would have preferred it if the select committee had recommend that the government sack the LGO and all their staff and introduce a new system of administrative justice. Whilst there is no doubt the select committee has given them a second chance I personally don't think they are capable of change, for the better at least. 

Unfortunately complainants will all have to suffer the death throes of the unfit for purpose system for another couple of years until the select committee decide once and for all the Local Government Ombudsmen are incapable of running a fit for purpose system of administrative justice.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Select committee report into the work of the LGO: Government response

The Government has now responded to the select committee report following their investigation into the work of the Local Government Ombudsman. Read the Government's response here.

I will add my analyse the Government's response as soon as possible and add it below.

My earlier posts chronicling the events leading up to the Government's response.

Inquiry into the Local Government Ombudsman

LGO, PHSO and the CLG Select Committee Investigation

Written evidence re investigation into the LGO

Local Government Ombudsman Oral Evidence

More written evidence submitted re investigation into the LGO

Select Committee Report Published

My response to the LGO's response to the panning they received

CLG Committee Findings - The failings of the Local Government Ombudsman

LGO taking steps to change. Why? Because they can no longer bury the truth

Ombudsmen must join forces, says LGO Jane Martin

Has the LGO improved since the select committee report?

I will add my analyse the Government's response as soon as possible and add it below.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Has the LGO improved since the select committee report?

The Select Committee Report following their Inquiry into the Local Government Ombudsman was published on the 17 July 2012.

For those not wanting to wade through the full report I extracted the main failings of the Local Government Ombudsman from the select committee report.

As expected the LGO tried to defend themselves by responding to the panning they received in the select committee report. This is my analysis of that damage limitation exercise .

Following publication of the report the LGO naturally received damning criticism from many quarters not least from Simon Danczuk MP.

As expected the LGO once again tried to defend themselves by responding to the article written by Simon Danczuk MP and published in the Guardian. This is my analysis of that damage limitation exercise.

On the 7th September the LGO made a third damage limitation attempt. This is my analysis of that damage limitation exercise.

It is now nearly 3 months since the select committee published their report, which lead me to the question I asked in the title of this post.

Has the LGO improved since the select committee report? I would argue that the answer to that question is no.

Whilst there is no doubt the LGO have been busy with their evangelical agenda, for example in the month prior to the launch of the select committee inquiry into the Local Government Ombudsman they only highlight 1 case of wrongdoing, However, the month after they they highlighted 7 of wrongdoing.

Again in the month prior to the select committee report being published they highlighted only 1 case of wrongdoing but in the month after the damning criticism they highlighted 6 cases of wrongdoing.

In the following 7 weeks to date (12 October 2012)  they have highlighted 9 cases of wrongdoing.

Therefore, it appears to me that they only worry about reporting cases of wrongdoing when they are under the spotlight or have been criticised.

I have also been contacted by a number of people who have had dealings with the LGO since they were criticised by the select committee and a common thread in their complaints about the LGO is that the LGO investigators are still accepting the word of the council no matter how much evidence to the contrary is available.

I can only conclude that the LGO haven't improved because they are still using the devious practices they developed over the last 20 years or so which includes, smoke & mirrors, spin and bullshit to  to give the false impression they have improved.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ombudsmen must join forces, says LGO Jane Martin

Read the full story from the source Public Service However, the paragraph that interests me is reproduced below.
Martin [Local Government Ombudsman] added: "We would be in favour of greater harmonisation of public sector ombudsmen in England, but we should be very purposeful about it and very clear about why we need to do things differently."
I can tell Ms Martin why they need to do things differently, as can the majority of complainants who have submitted complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman over the last 20 years. They are totally unfit for purpose.

This view was also recently reinforced when a government select committee essentially came to the same conclusion.

I can also hazard a guess at why they are in favour of greater harmonisation of public sector ombudsmen in England.

If you want to hide a tree you put it in a forest, therefore, it appears to me that Ms Martin wants to hide her unfit for purpose organisation among other unfit for purpose organisations such as the CQC. That way they are less likely to be identified as the worse ombudsmen in the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

LGO praise for Wirral Council? What a joke!

WATCHDOGS [The Local Government Ombudsman] have given Wirral Council top marks in their annual review.
Figures published by the Local Government Ombudsman show Wirral is the fastest Merseyside council in responding to complaints.
In her annual letter to the council, Ombudsman Anne Seex said: “I am pleased to say that I have no concerns about your authority’s response times and there are no issues arising from the complaints that I want to bring to your attention.”
The Ombudsman found no evidence of maladministration or injustice during an entire three-year period, from 2009 to date. [My emphasis]
Read the full story from the source Wirral Globe 
My comment: Yet an independent investigator over a similar period found the council was in the grip of a “corrosive” and “inward-looking culture where the needs and rights of residents had become submerged under its bureaucratic machinations. [my emphasis] Read the full story here.

Also read the three posts below [click on links] and decide for yourself if the Local Government Ombudsman is or isn't fit for purpose. If you reach the conclusion that they are indeed unfit for purpose you won't be alone because a recent select committee investigating the work of the Local Government Ombudsman also found them unfit for purpose. Read the full story here.

Wirral Council: Where was the Local Government Ombudsman?

Wirral Council and the Discredited Local Government Ombudsman.

Wirral Council: How many more scandals must we have before council officers are sacked?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

LGO taking steps to change. Why? Because they can no longer bury the truth


The LGO had already responded to the panning the received from the Government select committee. Read my response to that here. You can also read the highlights of the panning they received here.

Following that Simon Danczuk (One of the select committee members) wrote an article for the Guardian about the LGO becoming pickled in aspic. Read his Guardian article in full  Local Government Ombudsman risks becoming 'pickled in aspic'

The chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE) better known as the Local Government Ombudsman has now also responded to the criticism from Simon Danczuk MP.

The following is my analysis of the LGO's response to extracts from the Simon Danczuk article

As previously my comments in blue.

Responding to criticism from Simon Danczuk MP, the chair of the councils watchdog says it is opening itself up to public scrutiny. Why was it not already open to public scrutiny? They have been in existence for some 38 years.

The job of the local government ombudsman is to provide an independent means of redress to individuals for injustice caused by unfair treatment or a failure of duty by local authorities and care providers. A job they have demonstrably failed to do for the last 20 years or so.

More than a quarter of these decisions identified significant injustice and achieved redress. Restorative justice is our focus and we have achieved this for thousands of citizens across the country. More spin and propaganda from the LGO. Whilst more than a quarter identified significant injustice it is significantly lower percentage than other ombudsmen. In addition, the majority of those didn't achieve proper redress, the investigation was closed down when the Council offered the LGO a paltry settlement in order to stop the investigation and bury rather than report the fact that the council was guilty of maladministration. The complainant has no say in the matter, complaints are closed and settled between the LGO and the council.

But I am acutely aware that as a vital frontline public service we must continually strive to improve our performance and adapt and evolve as an organisation. I welcome the report from the Communities and Local Government Committee for underlining the need for us to be ready and willing to be held to account for the quality of our work. Strive to improve their performance? I doubt it could get much worse, reports findings of maladministration have dropped to an all time low. However, there has been an increase since they were panned by the select committee, so the select committee must have touched a nerve. 

I have set out four objectives: provide a complaints service direct to the public which is accessible, responsive, consistent and objective; ensure sound decisions and appropriate redress based on impartial, rigorous and proportionate investigations; use our knowledge of complaints to identify best practice, promoting good public administration and influencing public policy; and finally, proper stewardship of public funds. Wow, they have just decided to do something they should have been doing for the last 38 years.

Openness, transparency and accountability must be central to everything the ombudsman does. During the first quarter of next year we will publish a summary statement online of every decision we make. This will mean that all of our decision making is open to scrutiny. It will also enable citizens to make informed choices – on care providers, for example – and provide useful feedback to local councils and MPs. If Openness, transparency and accountability must be central to everything they do, why for the last 20 years or so have they been so secretive, opaque and unaccountable? Or have they just decided to be open, transparent and accountable because of the panning they received from the select committee.

Councils and citizens expect us to work openly; we will make sure we understand their perspective and that they help to shape our services. It's a bit late in the day for the LGO to start doing the job citizens have expected them to have been doing for the last 38 years. Furthermore, they will never understand a complainant's perspective until the start to talk to and listen to, rather than ignore, dissatisfied complainants. As I and others have proven, you ignore a dissatisfied complainant at your peril.

[For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. - The average "wronged customer" will tell 8-l6 people about it. Over 20% will tell more than 20. Source: Lee Resource Inc] And the odd one like me will tell thousands :-)

I believe we are now taking the necessary steps to transform the Local Government Ombudsman into an organisation which is well respected for meeting the needs and the expectations of the public. If the LGO want to transform, as they suggest they want to do, they could start by doing the following. 

- ignoring dissatisfied complainants.
- trying to justify stupid and irrational decisions.
- fiddling statistics to make themselves appear more effective than they are.
- manipulating customer satisfaction surveys by removing dissatisfied complainants.
- report all council wrongdoing as maladministration.
- accepting council statements without validation.
- the spin, propaganda and bullshit.
- sending out sycophantic annual review letters to councils, which just helps them bury wrongdoing.
- fiddling comebacks.
- fiddling compliance percentages.
- fabricating documents.
- colluding with councils.
- letting councils pull your strings.
- tinkering with remedies to make them more palatable to councils.
- ignoring council lies.
- ignoring potentially criminal and illegal activity identified during an investigation.
- using fallacious reasoning to support decisions.
- withholding the full reasoning/rationale behind decisions.
- recruiting staff who have difficulty understanding logical and rational arguments.

Only then will the Local Government Ombudsman meet the needs and expectations of the public. When that day comes or in the alternative the Government get rid of them altogether, my job will be done.