Tuesday, May 30, 2006

MPs

During my fight for justice I attempted to enlist the help of my MP. Initially he showed great interest (around election time) but quickly grew tired and just gave up suggesting that there was nothing more he could do (after he had been re elected).

I was very disappointed that an elected representative could not help one of his constituents who was suffering significant injustice as a result of the maladministration of an unaccountable none elected public authority.

If MPs aren’t interested in protected their constituents from injustice caused by unaccountable and none elected authority then who is? MPs collectively gave these unaccountable authorities the statutory power to ruin peoples lives, so you would think they could remove those powers when they are being abused.

As a result, with a few exceptions, I now have no time for MPs. There is, however, one MP who I consider an exception to the rule and that’s the MP who supported the Balchins during their long fight for justice. Just a pity MPs of that calibre are so few and far between.

My complaint investigated?

I received a letter this weekend that suggests that the Ombudsman is now going to investigate my complaint (at long last). Furthermore, they have now given me the information that they have been refusing to give me for the last four years. My earlier postings refer.

If that is the power of a Blog then I recommend it to all.

On the downside, I have had many false promises in the past so I will have to wait and see if my complaint is actually investigated and resolved or if this is just another devious tactic to shut me up.

I will post updates of their progress and also continue to post comments on associated problems.

Watch this space!

Monday, May 29, 2006

LGO maladministration?

Bob Draper an investigator working for the Coventry office of the Local Government Ombudsman is responsible for writing an article called ‘The work of an investigator’.

In the article he makes the following statement

‘Complainants and Councils have an opportunity to comment on information which will be relied upon to reach a decision and have their comments taken into account.’

However, an Assistant Ombudsman terminated my 2002 complaint based on a private telephone call he had with the Council. I have never been told what was said or given the opportunity to comment on the information that the Assistant Ombudsman used when he reached the decision not to investigate my complaint.

Question to the Ombudsman, did the Assistant Ombudsman fail to follow procedure or is Bob Draper’s statement untrue? One of them is guilty of maladministration, which one and what do you propose to do about it?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Performance related pay


During 2005 an Investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated

‘..they’ve introduced this performance related pay; it came in for the first time last year and the investigators, I have to say we said it would influence the decision making process. We were not listened to. I mean that’s the top and bottom of it. But you know it has inevitably; I mean the government accepts that it has. But it was accepted that the upside is greater than that marginal downside, I think it’s a fact of life with which we all have to live nowadays…’

Now we know why decisions are rushed and they don’t like comebacks.

‘Marginal downside’, just a few hundred lives ruined because the system now allows investigators without integrity to make more money by reaching a quick decision rather than investigating a complaint properly.

‘I think it’s a fact of life with which we all have to live nowadays’ they live with their bonus, the government lives with a greater throughput of cases, the councils live with fewer findings of maladministration whilst the poor old complainant has to live with the suffering that it causes, very equitable.

A win, win, win, stuff the complainant fact of life? All thanks to the Ombudsman.

Flawed comeback procedure

During 2005 an investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated

‘..when you comeback on an investigation you say you think the outcome is unsatisfactory it is looked at again but very briefly by a Deputy and by the Ombudsman and although Mrs Thomas will amend letters and may spot something that has been missed by and large she will look to a summary which has been prepared by the initial investigating officer.’ (My emphasis) ‘…it’s a paper exercise and inevitably they are going to draw on their comments the opinions.’

So the investigator, who took the initial decision not to investigate your complaint, is solely responsible for preparing the summary that the Ombudsman uses to decide whether the investigators decision was flawed. At least we now know why comebacks are so rare.

The same investigator also stated

‘You do raise a very valid point that when you came back in the spring of 2002 you did bring new information and it should have generated a new inquiry.’

‘I don’t quite understand why we did not re open the investigation in 2002’

Neither do I, and four years later the Ombudsman still refuses to answer that very question.

Although the Ombudsman refuses to answer my questions the investigator stated at the time,

‘I am concerned here that you’re at the risk of being disadvantaged through not being given reasons to which I actually think your entitled’

How true, the problem is that we have an Ombudsman who is not the least bit interested in procedural fairness, natural justice or the rights of the individual. All they are interested in is burying maladministration for their friends and ex collegues in local government.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ombudsman defies logic

During 2005 an Investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated

‘You know honestly in my years at the commission I have never come across another situation like this. That is why I have had to go and look to find out exactly why we have held the line on not issuing it as a re launched comeback. Because I have been arguing I can’t see the logic of why we are doing this.’

No, neither could I, however, it is now 2006 and the Ombudsman still refuses to comeback on my complaint!

Evangelical agenda


The Honourable Mr Justice Lightman gave a lecture during March 2001. Although his lecture was essentially about the Pensions Ombudsman many of the issues he addressed are valid for all Public Sector Ombudsmen including the Local Government Ombudsman.

'the Ombudsman clearly has his own evangelical agenda which he takes his every opportunity to take a high profile stance to propagate not least through his lectures and Annual reports. As is clear from the quotations from his statements which I have already made, he respects none of the constraints to be expected of a judicial officer respecting decisions made by superior courts, but conducts campaigns in furtherance of his ideas casting ridicule on those members of the judiciary who have the temerity to disagree with him. Respectfully I would venture the comment: few postures are so unbecoming as a judge whatever his level in the judicial hierarchy for ever in the missionary position. This must give him the appearance of being, if he is not thereby constituted, an interested party in his own decisions. The obviation of this cloud must be a further factor favouring transferring the adjudicatory role to a Tribunal.'

The Local Government Ombudsmen also have their own evangelical agenda,

Extracts from the Local Government Ombudsman corporate plan 2006 to 2009, Maximise positive publicity............prompt response to negative publicity. Conducting a campaign in furtherance of their ideas?

In essence they carefully select the few complaints which they believe will enhance their reputation whilst burying the other 99% of complaints submitted to them.

Human Rights

The Honourable Mr Justice Lightman gave a lecture during March 2001. Although his lecture was essentially about the Pensions Ombudsman many of the issues he addressed are valid for all Public Service Ombudsmen.

'The European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act give greater significance and attention to the legal process and its adequacy to afford a fair trial. It is the duty of the State to provide such a process: it is no longer sufficient to require the public to make do with a procedure which falls short but affords something better than nothing. There are serious questions whether proceedings before the Ombudsman meet the requirements satisfactorily;'

'..the existing judicial jurisdiction of the Ombudsman raises serious questions regarding compliance with the Human Rights Act and (for this and other reasons) should be transferred to a tribunal; and that the constitution of the tribunal should be such that as to make available all necessary expertise not present in proceedings before the Ombudsman...'


Five years later and the Government has still not done anything about it!

Failure to give reasons

An investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated

‘I think there is a short coming sometimes in just the way our system works and that there is a tendency often not to…I mean well I have been criticised myself by… the Ombudsman in the past for giving too detailed reasons to complainants because that can be a hostage to fortune and indeed it can.’

Now we know why they don’t give adequate reasons to support their decisions. As one Judge put it, the failure to give adequate reasoning in support of a decision is a de facto denial of a Judicial Review.

Fiddling Comeback Statistics

During 2005 an investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated to me.

(Investigator's comments) (Me)

‘…this is the rub, when it is registered as a re launched comeback on our computer systems, it opens up the whole field of the complaint now your initial complaint and I’ve got the file here, I don’t have the original file but I think the report was dated 97 but your original complaint came in 1997 and that would have the effect of looking, as far as our statistics are concerned, which I always find terribly tedious, but we’ve got to have all these returns for the government, we have certain targets one of which is that we have to discontinue investigations, or 98 percent of investigations within a year, your investigation would look as though it had been ongoing for about 7 years wouldn’t it’ ‘well it has’ ‘sorry’ ‘well it has’ ‘it has, it absolutely has …… one complaint effectively that distorts all of your figures, because it is so much longer than all the others you know it pulls your general averages down,’

Yet another reason why they won’t comeback on a complaint, it pulls their averages down;

'Well the, the horrible thing about statistics, about the government’s targets, and I’ve seen this in other area’s apart from the Ombudsman office, and it’s true in the prison service, it’s true in all of the public services, that the work is skewed to meet the statistics. (My emphasis)

They do I think influence decisions that you make, they influence the daily lives of investigators, without a doubt'

Now we know why they won’t comeback on complaints and prefer instead to register them as new complaints. That devious ‘skewing’ tactic generates two positive ticks on their stats instead of one negative tick because they had to comeback on a bad decision.

The puppet master



During 2005 an investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated ‘.....the council wrote back and actually informed Mrs Thomas's decision that there was no more for her.’

(Mrs Thomas was a Local Government Ombudsman)

Criticism

A quote from an investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman.

‘I have to smile actually that some of the criticisms that Mr Nunn makes, he has obviously researched our procedures, some of the criticisms he makes actually make me smile because they are criticisms that I have made internally myself.’

Diluted remedies

An investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated

‘The remedy that was offered to you at the end of that report was not exactly what she wanted she felt it was reduced by the Ombudsman. I mean it was outside ****’s powers completely but she felt that the remedy was not satisfactory’

(**** I removed the name of the individual)

Now we know that the Ombudsmen dilute the remedies suggested by investigators to make them more palatable for their friends in the Council.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

System V Culture

Many people are of the opinion that the system operated by the Local Government Ombudsman could be improved by the Government making small changes to the system.

However, my arguments is that people, not systems, make systems work.

As one example, the Ombudsmen usually suggest that the 1974 Local Authority Act gave them the discretion that allows them to introduce Local Settlements. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant to my argument because even if the Act gave them the discretion they suggest, it still only unlocked the door. The Ombudsmen still had a choice in the matter. They made the decision to go through the door and introduce local settlements. It had nothing to do with the system or the 1974 Local Government Act.

In essence the Ombudsman found a loophole and exploited it by introducing local settlements for the benefit of everyone bar the complainant. The Ombudsmen win because they can terminate cases without having to do much work, the Councils love it because they can hide from the reality of their maladministration and it suits the Government because it keeps costs down and hides the fact that there are serious problems within Local Government.

The point is that no system is perfect and some people will, if they want to, always find a loophole that allows them to exploit the system for their own ends. So yes Government could close the odd loophole by tinkering with the system but whilst the culture within the Ombudsman’s organisation remains the same nothing will really change.

Furthermore, the system worked reasonably well in the early days, it is only over the last 15 years that Local Government Ombudsmen have exploited loopholes in the system for the benefit of themselves and their colleagues in Government. (Local and National).

Looking at another example, just because the system didn’t make Local Government Ombudsmen accountable doesn’t mean that they have to exploit the fact to ruin peoples lives. They had a choice. Just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean you have to do it.

The same can be said about the Council’s freedom to ignore the Ombudsman’s findings, that could be classed as a system deficiency, however, the Ombudsmen could, if they had wanted to, done something about it years ago. The point is they didn’t.

That brings me back to my argument, it’s people that make systems work, people that exploit systems and people that make systems fail.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Toothless Tigers?


One of the original problems facing the Local Government Ombudsmen was what to do if a Council refused to provide a remedy for maladministration. The Council have always been able to ignore the Ombudsman and the best that the Ombudsman could do was to issue another report.

Over the years the Ombudsmen could have asked the Government to make their findings enforceable in law, however, they chose instead to develop a devious strategy to ensure that the majority of Councils accept their findings.

They just make it easier for a Council to accept their findings than the alternative. Unfortunately, when the only alternative is the threat of a second report it doesn’t leave a lot of manoeuvring room to make their findings more palatable than that.

That’s why an Ombudsman’s award, for a complainant suffering injustice through maladministration, is on average only about £500. Probably a lot less than the cost to the council of publishing a second report.

Can you imagine the uproar if a Judge had to negotiate a prison sentence with the guilty party knowing that they could ignore the sentence if they didn’t like it. That would put the Judge in an impossible position to pass an appropriate sentence. Prison sentences would drop from years to hours overnight.

Can you imagine the uproar if a Traffic warden had to negotiate the price of a parking ticket with the offending party, knowing that they could ignore the ticket if they didn’t like it. Parking fines would drop from £40 to 20p overnight.

Many people suggest that the Ombudsman’s findings should be made mandatory. My question is, why haven’t the Ombudsman asked the Government to give them the statutory powers they need to be effective? They have had the last thirty years to do so. Obviously they must prefer to be toothless tigers.

Now who's the sucker!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The misuse of discretion

Introduction

The purpose of this posting is to illustrate that many of the Local Government Ombudsman's (LGO) decisions are unlawful because they have misused their discretionary powers.

Background to the LGO’s discretionary power

The Local Government Act 1974 gave the LGO a statutory discretion whether or not to initiate or terminate a complaint of maladministration.

The reasons why the LGO needs discretion is obvious and numerous and I have no argument with that providing the LGO exercise this legally, fairly and for the right reasons.

What is discretion?

One dictionary defines discretion as, ‘the power of a judge or public official to make decisions on various matters based on his/her opinion within general legal guidelines.’

How does the law interpret discretion

Public bodies, including the LGO, must correctly understand and apply the law, including the Human Rights Act, that regulates their decision making powers. Furthermore, an action or decision may be unlawful if the decision maker had no power to make it or exceeded the powers given to him/her. The LGO’s discretion must be used within their express statutory authority.

It is a general maxim of the law that a statutory body cannot extend their statutory powers through the use of discretionary powers.

In addition public bodies also have to be fair. This deals with the process for reaching an unbiased decision and includes the right to a fair hearing. The courts have also recently extended the idea of fairness to prevent abuses of power where public bodies have sought to go back, without sufficient justification, on promises made (called 'legitimate expectations').

When do the LGO misuse their discretionary power.

The LGO misuse their discretionary powers for a number of reasons but none so blatantly offensive than their discretionary use of ‘local settlements'. I believe this is an unlawful exercise of their discretionary power. Therefore, I have decided to focus on that to illustrate my arguments.

The 1974 Local Government Act gives the LGO no express statutory power to implement or use ‘local settlements’. In fact it makes no mention of ‘local settlement’ or settlement at all. When challenged the LGO states that their discretionary power gives them the authority to implement and use ‘local settlements’.

I believe this is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, The 1974 Act gives the LGO the express statutory authority to investigate a complaint about injustice caused by maladministration. In addition the 1974 Act also gives the LGO the statutory discretion to investigate or not investigate as they see fit. and to terminate an investigation for any reason.

With such wide discretionary powers, it would appear, superficially at least, that their assertions that ‘their discretionary powers give them the statutory power to use ‘local settlements’ would be difficult to disprove.

However, when you start to look a little deeper you realise that their assertions are just an illusion. They have and have never had the authority, discretionary or otherwise to implement and use ‘local settlements’.

There is no argument that the LGO have the right to terminate an investigation for any reason. In fact I can think of numerous reasons why they would need such a discretionary power. The two parties may have mutually agreed to settle, making the investigation somewhat redundant. It may become obvious during an investigation that the complaint was malicious or vexatious. The public authority may hold their hand up and admit their guilt, again making the investigation somewhat redundant. The list goes on and on.

However, the LGO also terminate an investigation because of what they deviously call a ‘local settlement. The point I want to make here is that a ‘local settlement’ is agreed between the LGO and the Council, the complainant has no say in the matter. So in essence the LGO are creating the reason for terminating an investigation.

The arguments

My first argument is quite simple, the 1974 Local Government Act gives the LGO the statutory discretion to terminate an investigation for any reason but it does not give them the discretionary power to create a reason for terminating an investigation. It would be a different matter if the Council and the Complainant agreed to settle the case.

Therefore, by creating the reason for terminating an investigation they have exceeded their statutory powers. Remember what I stated earlier, an action or decision may be unlawful if the decision maker had no power to make it or exceeded the powers given to him/her.

Now lets turn to fairness. The Council can agree to a ‘local settlement’ or not, however, the complainant has no say in the matter. If the LGO says so they must accept the termination of their complaint through a local settlement.

My second argument is about the unfairness of the discretionary use of ‘local settlements’. The courts have recently extended the idea of fairness to prevent abuses of power where public bodies have sought to go back, without sufficient justification, on promises made (called 'legitimate expectations').

The 1974 Local Government Act states that the LGO can investigate a complaint about injustice caused by maladministration, so I can well understand a complainant having the ‘legitimate expectation’ that the LGO will do exactly that.

The 1974 Local Government Act also give the LGO the discretion to terminate a complainant so I can well understand a complainant having the ‘legitimate expectation’ that their complaint may be terminated.

However, nowhere in the 1974 Local Government Act does it state or imply that the LGO may create the reason for terminating an investigation. In essence, the complainant expects one thing and the LGO give them another.

My third argument is about the LGO fettering their discretion. The LGO has a discretionary comeback procedure. Essentially this states that if no report has been issued and one of the comeback criteria is met than the LGO can comeback on a complaint.

The problem is that the LGO and Council agree a settlement. That saves the LGO the time and trouble of investigating and as a result no report is issued. However, that leaves the complainant free to request comeback on their complaint. So my argument is straight forward, the use of ‘local settlements’ must fetter the LGO discretion when it comes to Comeback.

If a complaint has been ‘locally settled’ how can the LGO comeback on the complaint. The answer is they can’t. They have made a deal with the Council so they cannot comeback on a complaint they have settled. However, they did not settle it with the complainant so the complainant is free to request comeback. A conundrum the LGO overcomes by fettering the use of their discretionary power regarding comeback on a complaint.

Natural Justice and Fairness


An extract from a paper on Natural Justice and Procedural Fairness is shown below.

Foremost rules of procedural fairness required by these primary rules in the resolution of disputes, grievances and complaints

One of those rules being

Give each party the opportunity to correct or contradict any statement prejudicial to their case.

The Ombudsman refused to investigate a complaint I submitted in 2002 following a statement given to an Assistant Ombudsman by a County Council solicitor on the telephone. I have never been given the opportunity to correct or contradict that statement, yet if was obviously prejudicial to my case because the Assistant Ombudsman used that as the sole reason for terminating my complaint.

Following the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act I tried again to obtain the information I was entitled to under the laws of natural justice. The Ombudsman again refused to let me see, let alone comment upon, the County Council’s statement that so prejudiced my case.

However, the Ombudsman still advertises the fact that they are Fair and Impartial. Just a pity they only advertise the fact and don’t put it into practice.

Creative publicity (LGO spin)


There was an article in the Guardian newspaper today,

http://society.guardian.co.uk/localgovt/story/0,,1775995,00.html

The article has a quote from the Ombudsman’s office stating,

"The whole idea of the remedies is that they are trying to put people back in the position they were in before something happened," a spokeswoman says. "So it is not necessarily only about money."

No mention of the fact that the councils can, and often do, ignore the ombudsman’s suggested remedy with impunity. In any event, as far as a complainant is concerned is very rarely about the money, it is about justice, the authority concerned being held accountable for the wrongs they have inflicted on a member of their community.

If Mrs Seex believes that a memorial puts the family back in the position they were before the council’s act of maladministration, God help us all.

It’s funny how the Ombudsman goes to great lengths to publicise the cases in which they find maladministration (1.6% of all cases) but fails to mention or publicise the other 98.4 % of cases.

Furthermore, what about the councils that ignore the ombudsman’s suggested remedy. Do they ever check to see that the remedy has been provided within a reasonable time, no, and neither do they care.

A neighbour and I are still waiting for a remedy the Ombudsman suggested to the council in 1998 when they found that we had suffered injustice as a result of maladministration. Even though the ombudsman is aware that the council has failed to provide the remedy they have done nothing about the ongoing injustice.

I just hope the family concerned don’t have to wait 8 years for their memorial.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Time Travel


The 1974 Local Government Act gives the Ombudsmen the discretionary power to terminate an investigation at any time.

LG ACT 1974, PART III Section 26 (10) In determining whether to initiate, continue or discontinue an investigation, a Local Commissioner shall, subject to the preceding provisions of this section, act at discretion; and any question whether a complaint is duly made under this Part of this Act shall be determined by the Local Commissioner.

Should the Ombudsman conduct an investigation the Act also states they should produce a report.

LG ACT 1974, PART III Section 30 (1) In any case where a Local Commissioner conducts an investigation, or decides not to conduct an investigation, he shall send a report of the results of the investigation, or as the case may be a statement of his reasons for not conducting an investigation-

If in the opinion of the Ombudsman injustice has been caused in the consequence of maladministration the report shall be laid before the authority.

LG ACT 1974, PART III Section 31 (1) (1) If in the opinion of the Local Commissioner, as set out in the report, injustice has been caused to the person aggrieved in consequence of maladministration, the report shall be laid before the authority concerned, and it shall be the duty of that authority to consider the report, and to notify the Local Commissioner of the action which the authority have taken, or propose to take.

However, the Ombudsmen often go back in time to deviously extend their statutory powers.

Once it has been decided that injustice has been caused by maladministration the investigation is over. The Ombudsman should send a report of the results of the investigation (Section 30 (1) and the report should be laid before the authority concerned Section 31 (1).

However, in the magical world of the Local Government Ombudsman anything is possible. As soon as they identify that injustice has been caused because of maladministration they immediately energise their time travel machine. Firstly they use the words ‘administrative fault’ as a euphemism for maladministration. Then if the authority concerned decide they want the finding of maladministration buried by their ex colleagues they offer to ‘locally settle’ the case.

When that happens the Ombudsmen immediately travel back in time and terminate the investigation using the discretionary power conferred to them under Section 26 (10). Then they issue a report stating that they have used their discretionary powers to terminate the investigation because the authority has offered a ‘local Settlement’. As a result the authorities maladministration continues to be called 'administrative fault' and the truth is buried forever as a 'local settlement'.

Surely the investigation ended when they found ‘administrative fault’ otherwise the Ombudsman would be guilty of reaching a premature conclusion. So two questions remain, how do they terminate something that has already ended and why would the authority want to settle unless the Ombudsman found maladministration?

Should the authority refuse to settle the case the Ombudsmen switch off the time travel machine and call the ‘administrative fault’ they found by its true name, maladministration. Then they issue a report and lay it before the authority concerned.

It is obvious that Local Government Ombudsmen are using this devious time travel tactic to extend their statutory powers so they could introduce ‘local settlements’. The 1974 Local Government Act only gives the Ombudsmen the statutory power to investigate cases it does not give them any express or implied powers to introduce, let alone accept, 'local settlements' as a means of terminating an investigation.

'Local Settlements' should not be confused with normal settlements. 'Local settlements' do not need the agreement of the complainant that normal settlements would. The Ombudsman agree the local settlement with the council, something they would not be able to do with a normal settlement.

Local Settlements will be the subject of a separate posting.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

International Ombudsman

The International Ombudsman states that the role of the ombudsman is to protect the people against violation of rights, abuse of powers, error, negligence, unfair decisions and maladministration in order to improve public administration and make the government's actions more open and the government and its servants more accountable to members of the public.

I wonder why our Local Government Ombudsmen don't do that?

Why do ours spend most of their time, effort and resources trying to bury maladministration?

Why do ours feel they need to hide the truth about the reality of the situation?

Accountability

Most people are aware that Local Government Ombudsmen (LGO) were set up by the Government in 1974. However, many people do not realise that the organisation Justice had a large part to play in the Government of the day's decision to introduce them.

Ombudsmen also have their own association known as the BIOA (British and Irish Ombudsman Association). As with many organisations the BIOA have entry criteria. One of the these being accountability.

Legally there is nothing to stop anyone calling themselves an Ombudsman. However, membership of the BOIA is supposed to be limited to those that meet the criteria.

Following further research I found that Justice are on record stating that the LGO are not accountable but they should be.

Even the LGO have stated that they would like to be accountable. The implication being that they are not yet accountable.

So how did they become members of the BOIA?

Probably because they are founder members of the association and as with maladministration they don't always practice what they preach.

BMG Qualitative Survey

During the latest BMG survey for the Local Government Ombudsmen (LGO) they tried the old technique of association. Most people will have either played this game or been involved in a training session during which it was used. A common variation is to pick a fruit or vegetable that you feel best describes yourself/someone else.

BMG decided to use cars/mode of transport rather than fruit and vegetables. During their sessions they asked LGO staff what car best describes the service. The answers below provide an interesting insight as well as a little light relief.

LGO senior staff.

‘An elegant old car. Elegance associated with high quality, reliability, very high standards and strong professionalism. But perhaps a little out of date.’

‘There is a lot under the bonnet that is unused’.

There certainly is!

LGO junior staff.

‘A stopping train, it can take a long time as there are quite a few stops and starts along the way and it can take longer than you expect. Our customers might pick the same.’

Even British Rail never took 9 years to reach their destination.

I for one would pick the following



Thursday, May 11, 2006

Statistical manipulation


Statistically speaking, the Ombudsman claims to have dealt with three complaints of mine since 1997, whilst in reality they have failed to resolve one.

They even argue that I should submit another ‘new’ (fourth) complaint. When will it end?

Just how many statistically resolved complaints does the Ombudsman want to squeeze out of one complaint. If their statistics show that they have resolved three complaints from me over the last 9 years, when in reality they haven't resolved one, you can understand why the Government, and other casual observers, consider they are doing a good job. If only they knew the truth.

The three English Local Government Ombudsmen handle about 18,000 cases a year. For argument sake let's say they handled 150,000 over the last 9 years. Did they actually resolve 150,000 cases or are the same 50,000 cases just being churned? An extreme example maybe but with no idependant auditing of the Ombudsman's statistics who knows what the truth is?

LGO logic

Following the submission of my comeback request an Assistant Ombudsman stated that I did not meet the criteria for comeback. However, he thought I had a good case for a new investigation because the council had misled the Ombudsman.

Ironically one of the criteria that allows the Ombudsman to comeback on a complaint is if the council has misled the Ombudsman. (Please refer to my Comeback Procedure posting for more details. Criteria 3) The council has not been telling the true story and evidence of this is provided.)

This is a typical example of the irrationality of the Ombudsman’s office.

You can have comeback on your original complaint if the council misled the Ombudsman but you don’t meet the criteria for comeback so you will have to submit a new complaint because the council misled the Ombudsman.

Enough to make your brain hurt? The Ombudsman regularly expose the irrationality of their decisions when trying to rationalise their decisions. More examples will follow.

Start an LGO blog


When one person writes a blog like this, the LGO will tremble but when hundreds write a blog like this, the LGO will crumble.

Derived from the words of Spartacus.

If you have suffered injustice at the hands of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) please put a summary of your case into a blog. It is very easy believe me. Once you have done that let me have your url (blog address) and I will link to your blog. The more evidence we can put in the public domain the better. I am sure the Ombudsmanwatch website will also link to your blog bringing your story to an even wider audience.

Firstly, to start a blog all you need is an e-mail address. You don't even need to own a computer to write a blog, all you need is access to a computer that can connect to the internet. This service is available at most local Libraries. I don't have internet access at home yet I manage. I just use a friends computer and broadband connection.

If you haven’t got an e-mail address you can obtain one online or even use your friends. once you have an e-mail address you are ready to start.

Look at the bar across the top of this blog. You will see a 'get your own blog' link. Click on this link and you will be taken to an introductory page.

From this page you can access quite a lot of information about blogs, when you are ready all you have to do is click on create an account. This is where your e-mail address comes in. They need to verify your account by sending you an e-mail. You will also need to think of a password, you don't want unauthorised people changing your blog.

Think of a title and description for your blog and decide which template you want to use for your blog. The choice is quite wide but it is easier and quicker just to accept the default choice. You can always change it later if you want.

Once you have decided on a template you are ready to post to your blog. Don't forget you can post as often or as infrequently as you wish.

Many people will just want to post their story as a single posting others may want to add information at a regular interval. This blog is an example of a continually updated blog. Remember at any time you can edit any posting you make, adding to it or even deleting it if necessary.

Try entering a short post for practice and play with the editor until you get use to all the functions. The main thing to remember is that every time you make any changes you must publish your blog otherwise your changes will not be saved. In addition when you view your blog make sure that you keep refreshing your browser, otherwise you get the computer cache copy which will still be holding the previous copy of your blog.

Best of luck with your blog and please feel free to ask for help, Trevor.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

9 years and counting!

I have been waiting 9 years for the Local Government Ombudsman to resolve my complaint.

I suppose I shouldn't grumble because Mr and Mrs Balchin had to wait over 15 years. If you know someone who has waited longer please let me know. I will post the record holders in my hall of fame below.

Just to clarify the situation, I am talking about the length of time the Ombudsman has been involved not the length of time you have suffered injustice as a result of council maladministration.

In the Balchins case this must have been close to 20 years, in my case 16 years.


Justice delayed, is justice denied.
William Gladstone (1809 - 1898)

Hall of Fame






A complainant
waiting for the
Local Government Ombudsman
to resolve their case?







Mr & Mrs Balchin 16 years
Mr & Mrs Turpin
Trevor R Nunn 9 years (and counting)

Natural Justice

The Local Government Ombudsman's powers are derived from the 1974 Local Government Act.

The Local Government Ombudsman often ignore the rules of natural justice, however, this is what Lord Russell had to say about Parliament’s intent regarding Acts of parliament in Fairmount Investments Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment (1976)

“... for it is to be implied, unless the contrary appears, that Parliament does not authorise by the Act the exercise of powers in breach of the principles of natural justice, and that Parliament does by the Act require, in particular procedures, compliance with those principles .”

So as far as Lord Russell is concerned the LGO should not ignore the rules of natural justice.

LGO ignore the law (3)

This refers to the Local Government Ombudsman's addition of the words Significant/Material to the level of injustice a complainant must suffer before they investigate.

The 1974 Local Government Act does not include any such qualifying words.

Therefore, the LGO have fettered themselves by the introduction of said qualifying words and are now refusing to do their public duty and investigate complaints of injustice suffered through maladministration.

This is what Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, had to say on the matter in HTV Ltd v Price Commission (1976)

“A public body which is entrusted by Parliament with the exercise of powers for the public good cannot fetter itself in the exercise of them. It cannot be estopped from doing its public duty.

LGO ignore the law (2)


I have submitted evidence on a number of occasions that the Local Government Ombudsman has refused to look at let alone take into consideration.

This is what Lord Justice Muskill has to say on the subject (Greater London Council (1985)

He stated, failure properly to marshall the evidence on which the decision should be based, for example, taking into account an immaterial factor or failing to take into account a material factor or failing to take reasonable steps to obtain the relevant information might be make a decision procedurally improper.

LGO ignore the law (1)

I submitted a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman during 2002. Following a secret telephone call with the County Council the Ombudsman refused to investigate my complaint. They refused and continue to refuse to let me see, let alone comment on, the the County Council's response.

This is what Justice Sedley had to say on the matter during R v London Borough of Camden ex parte Paddock (1995)

“The principle that a decision making body should not see relevant to giving those affected the chance to comment on it and if they wish, to contravert it is fundamental to the principle of law (which governs public administration as much as it does adjudication) that to act in good faith and listen fairly to both sides is the duty lying upon everyone who decides anything.”

LGO Comeback Procedure

The Local Government Ombudsman's comeback procedure states:

The term comeback is used when a complaint has been determined without a formal report and the complainant alleges that one or more of the following apply:

1) The complaint, or a material part of it, has not been understood by the commission’s staff;

2) Evidence submitted before termination has not been taken into account;

3) The council has not been telling the true story and evidence of this is provided; or

4) New information has been supplied about the original complaint.

If the complainant meets any one of the stated criteria, the initial decision not to investigate their complaint should be properly reviewed by a senior officer.

More on raising the bar

The Local Government Ombudsman is a member of the International Ombudsman Institute.

Their membership criteria state

A public institution whether titled Ombudsman, Mediator, Parliamentary Commissioner, People's Defender, Human Rights Commission, Public Complaints Commission, Inspector General of Government, Public Protector or like designation, shall be eligible to become an Institutional member provided it exercises fully the following functions and meets the following criteria:

One of the criteria is.

ii) its role is to protect any person or body of persons against maladministration, violation of rights, unfairness, abuse, corruption, or any injustice caused by a public authority;

Therefore, as a member the LGO is expected to exercise FULLY its role to protect any person against ANY INJUSTICE caused by a public authority.

The criteria clearly states FULLY and ANY INJUSTICE, there are no qualifying words such as significant/material.

Mulberry bush

Once more round the mulberry bush. This is a very versatile tactic and is used when the Local Government Ombudsmen run out of other ways to block your complaint, adverse publicity or Judicial Reviews.

They offer to review or look at your complaint again, this usually involves other members of staff getting involved forcing you to start at the beginning again.

Even worse, whilst you are going round the mulberry bush for the second (or third) time they even try to use the same devious tricks they used the first time. This has happened to me just recently, I couldn’t believe it when the Assistant Ombudsman who was asked to review my case tried to use the same old tactics that the previous Assistant Ombudsman had already used.

In the Balchins case they used the ‘once more round the mulberry bush’ tactic to hide the fact that they were the cause of 14 years of suffering by Mr and Mrs Balchin.

In other cases they frequently use the mulberry bush offer to block/derail Judicial Reviews.

Linking

Please feel free to link to or reprint any of my postings. The more people that know the truth the better.

If you want me to link to your site or mention your site in my blog please let me know. If we hold similar views about the Local Government Ombudsman and Local Government there may be mutual benefit in making contact.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wise words

"The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem."

Milton Friedman

The Government introduced the Local Government Ombudsman in 1974 to remedy injustice caused by local authority maladministration.

However, I have suffered more maladministration at the hands of the Ombudsman than at the hands of a council. So it would appear that Milton Friedman is correct.

Head in the sand

This is another tactics used by the Ombudsmen when they can’t answer a question.

They threaten to ignore future correspondence. What usually happens is that the Investigator or Assistant Ombudsman involved will often threaten to advise them Ombudsman to stop answering your correspondence if you persist in asking questions that they can’t answer.

The Ombudsmen also often use this tactic. They just stop answering your letters if they don’t like the questions.

My argument has always been the same, why don’t they just do their job and resolve complaints in a reasonable time in the first place? Ironically if they did that there would be no questions they couldn’t answer.

Carrot and Stick

This is one of the tactics used by the Ombudsman when they can’t answer a question.

The Ombudsman will often suggest that your question is an unnecessary diversion from their attempts to resolve your complaint and they can’t afford to spend the time answering your questions. Sometimes the Ombudsman will even threaten to terminate your complaint if you persist in asking questions.

This is their version of the old carrot and stick approach. Do as I say and I will investigate your complaint cause me trouble and I won’t, which just about sums up the integrity of the Ombudsmen.

Poacher turned gamekeeper?

Or in reality just a poacher turning a blind eye to their ex colleagues nocturnal activities?

Can you imagine what the police force would be like if the majority of senior staff were recruited from the very people they were supposed to be investigating for wrongdoings?

Well that is exactly what has happened with the Local Government Ombudsman’s organisation. All three of the English Local Government Ombudsmen are ex Council Chief Executive Officers. Many of their senior staff are also ex Council.

One of the main arguments in defence of this ludicrous situation is that the Local Government Ombudsman needs experience and insight into the organisations that they have to investigate.

However, if you extrapolate that argument only murderers could catch murderers and only poachers could catch poachers. I doubt an investigator working in the CID or a Gamekeeper would subscribe to that theory. Will the Government be replacing Sir Ian Blair with an Eastern Block gang leader in their fight against crime? Will the next prison chief be an ex inmate?

Further evidence of the Local Government Ombudsman’s true allegiance can be found by analysing their statistics.

In reality nearly 30% of all complaints are as a result of maladministration yet only 1.6% of all complaints are reported as such. The other 28% are listed as local settlements. This is a dubious practice, introduced after the Councils effectively took control of the Local Government Ombudsman’s organisation, to hide the true level of maladministration. As a result there is now no deterrent to discourage maladministration. In reality the policies of the current Ombudsmen positively encourage councils to maladminister.

Firstly, there is every chance that they will get away with maladministration because not everyone complains. Secondly, one way or another, the Ombudsman will help them bury the majority of complaints submitted to them (98.4%) and thirdly, even in the unlikely event of the Ombudsman actually finding them guilty of maladministration (1.6%) the council can just ignore it.

My case is an example of that scenario. I would estimate that in less than 1% of all cases does a Council provide a remedy following an Ombudsman’s report. (This is estimated because even the Ombudsman does not keep a record.) At worse there may be a few lines in a local newspaper outlining the case. Even the script writers working on Monty Python would have turned the idea down as being too surreal.

Attack the victim

This is one of the tactics used by the Ombudsman when they can’t answer a question.

To overcome the problem they just find fault in the way the question has been asked. They will often suggest that you have not been civil or that you have been rude.

Other alternatives are to suggest that you have implied that they are corrupt, biased or have colluded with the council. However, all this is just a smoke screen to put you on the defensive and hide the fact that they can’t answer your question.

The Ombudsman’s use of the 'attack is the best form of defence' tactic does at least prove that you are on the right track and that you have them on the back foot. Furthermore, the more fanatical their attack on you the more worried they are about your questions.

Delay

A council spokesperson is on record stating that delay when handling a complaint is advantageous to them.

As a result many complainants are already exhausted by the council’s internal complaints procedure before they even take their complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

So any additional delay introduced by the Local Government Ombudsman is just plain wrong and unfair. However, the Local Government Ombudsman routinely uses delay as a tactic to block or at least significantly delay valid complaints of maladministration.

The Ombudsman uses a number of different methods to ensure that the complainant is exhausted by the complaints procedure before they have exhausted the complaints procedure.

There are exceptions to the rule. Many people, such as the Balchins have the tenacity to persevere and eventually obtain the justice they so richly deserve.

One of my favourite arguments is how can the Local Government Ombudsman claim be effective if it takes years for them to resolve a complaint.

However, hundreds if not thousands of complainants just give up every year adding to the substantial number of valid complaints that unfortunately bite the dust.

Here are just a few of the ways the Local Government Ombudsman introduce unnecessary delay into their proceedings. There are many more but the following should at least provide an illustration of the depths An Ombudsman will sink in order to help their friends and ex colleagues in the council.

They just ignore your correspondence altogether. Altogether this ploy has been used on me three times over the last 9 years. During 2002 I had to re submit a second copy of a complaint in order to get their attention. They admitted that they had received my earlier correspondence and although I received an apology for their failure to respond I never received an explanation.

They ask for information that they already have in their possession. This has happened to me on a number of occasions over the last 9 years. Following submission of my second complaint they asked for information that was already included in my correspondence on at least three occasions.

They unnecessarily ask for clarification. This has happened to me on a number of occasions over the last 9 years. They often seek clarification on points that a five year old would be able to understand. This puts the complainant to the time and trouble of providing further explanation.

Freedom of Information

On a number of occasions I have had to threaten to submit a complaint to the FOI commissioner just to obtain documents and information from the Local Government Ombudsman.

However, on one occasion even the threat of submitting a complaint to the FOI commissioner failed to secure a copy of the information I had requested. As a result I had to submit a complaint to the FOI commissioner.

What is unusual is that the Local Government Ombudsman gave the council a copy of my complaint together with the opportunity to respond but I have never been allowed to see the council’s response to my complaint or comment on it in any way.

Even though the laws of natural justice state that both parties should see all the evidence used by the Local Government Ombudsman when reaching their decision they still refuse to let me see the evidence on which they based their decision.

I think it ludicrous that a complainant has to submit a complaint to the FOI commissioner in order to gain access to documents they need in order to effectively pursue their complaint. Information that the Local Government Ombudsman should have provided, as of right, in the course of their decision making process.

However, it is not only the Local Government Ombudsman who refuses to divulge information without recourse to the FOI commissioner. Councillors in Norwich Council had to use the FOI Act in order to get information from their own executive. How ludicrous is that! A Chief Executive Officer of a Council refusing to give their own Councillors (Norwich local taxpayers elected representatives) information and forcing them to use the FOI Act.

Now here is the interesting bit, the CEO of Norwich Council at the time was Mrs Ann Seex and she is now a Local Government Ombudsman.

So the refusal to give information without recourse to the FOI commissioner would appear to be a devious tactic that Mrs Seex has brought with her.

Shouldn’t the Chief Executive of a Council and a Local Government Ombudsman be operating in an open, honest and transparent manner? Just what is Mrs Seex frightened of?

At least this experience adds further evidence to my argument that the original principles of a Local Government Ombudsman have been seriously diluted by a constant influx of ex Council staff over the last twenty years or so.

Can you imagine what the police force would be like if the majority of senior staff were recruited from the very people they were supposed to be investigating for wrongdoings?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Linguistic gymnastics

The Ombudsman will often use what I loosely term ‘linguistic gymnastics’ to overcome their difficulties.

As one example, the Local Government Ombudsmen derive their powers from the 1974 Local Government Act. The act clearly states that the Ombudsmen’s purpose is to investigate complaints from members of the public who claim to have suffered injustice as a result of maladministration.

The Ombudsman also has the statutory discretion to terminate a complaint at any time up to a finding of maladministration. After a finding of maladministration the act states they must issue a report.

However, when the Ombudsman identifies maladministration they deviously use the words ‘administrative fault’ instead of the term maladministration. That allows them to accommodate the council should the council ask for the case to be locally settled. If that happens the Ombudsman accepts a paltry pay off on behalf of the complainant and that is the end of the matter. The Ombudsman states that they found ‘administrative fault’ but the case was locally settled.

Should the council refuse to locally settle the complaint the Ombudsman then call ‘administrative fault by it’s true name, maladministration and issue a formal report.

In essence, the Local Government Ombudsmen have unlawfully extended their statutory powers to include local settlements. They try to hide the fact by using ‘linguistic gymnastics’ to put a thin veneer of apparent lawfulness over their illegal acts.

Please note: Since this post was made the Government has given the Local Government Ombudsman the statutory authority to settle a case. Proof that they couldn't have had the powers when this post was made.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why the York Office?

There are three Local Government Ombudsmen in England, each of them handling a particular geographical area. I am focused on the York office simply because it is responsible for the area in which I live. As a result most of my experience is with the York Office. I am not implying they are any better or worse than any other Ombudsman. In fact from my research it is quite clear that all the Local Government Ombudsmen are just as bad as each other.

Ever worked for the LGO?

If you have worked/or still work in a Local Government Ombudsman’s office I would be interested in hearing from you. I am very keen to hear an insiders point of view. I would of course keep any contact strictly confidential.

LGO raise the bar

The Local Government Ombudsman is empowered by statute to investigate complaints from members of the public who claim to have suffered injustice as a result of maladministration.

However, over the last few years the Ombudsman has started to introduce other words into their unique interpretation of the 1974 Act.

Words such as material and significant are now used to make it even more difficult for a complainant to meet the criteria for an investigation of their complaint. As a result the Ombudsman will now only investigate a complaint when the Ombudsman considers the complainant has suffered significant injustice.

However, here is what Crossman, Leader or the House of Commons had to say on the matter. : "We have not tried to define injustice by using such terms as `loss or damage'. These may have legal overtones which could be held to exclude one thing which I am particularly anxious shall remain – the sense of outrage aroused by unfair or incompetent administration, even where the complainant has suffered no actual loss. We intend that the outraged citizen…shall have the right to an investigation, even where he has suffered no loss or damage in the legal sense of those terms, but is simply a good citizen who has nothing to lose and wishes to clear up a sense of outrage and indignation at what he believes to be a maladministration."

Furthermore, if you read the case reports over the last thirty years you can quite clearly see that the bar has been raised and it is now much more difficult to prove you have suffered the level of injustice necessary to warrant an investigation than it used to be.

I find it rather ironic that an organisation, set up in 1974 to investigate complaints from members of the public who claim to have suffered injustice as a result of maladministration, now spend more time and effort doing the opposite of what the Government intended and Crossman expected.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

LGO fiddle their statistics.


During a telephone conversation with an Investigator (which I recorded) they told me that the Ombudsman’s office manipulate the work they do in order to meet their targets. The Ombudsman refuses to accept that they fiddle the figures, I even have a couple of letters from the Ombudsman and an Assistant Ombudsman stating that they would never do that. The problem is that I also have a copy of a letter from the Ombudsman to a Council proving that they do in fact double count some complaints.

Believe the culprit

As I stated in my introduction over the next few months I will be posting details of a large number of devious tactics used by the Local Government Ombudsman to block perfectly valid complaints of maladministration. This tactic has been used on me and hundreds if not thousands of other complainants.

Following the submission of your complaint the Ombudsman just rings up the Council to discuss it (in secret of course). If the Council advise the Ombudsman there is nothing for them to investigate (or misleads them in other ways) the Ombudsman simply believes them and terminates your complaint. I even have a letter from a Deputy Ombudsman who suggests there is nothing wrong with that approach. I also have an investigator on tape naively stating that the Council would not mislead them. This is what happened to Mr and Mrs Balchin during 1991 and many hundreds of others over the last few years. (The Balchin's is a well known case that proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. It took them nearly 20 years to obtain the justice they deserved because of the Local Government Ombudsman prefers to accept the word of a Council rather than investigating a complaint properly)

No matter how strong your evidence is the Ombudsman refuses to look at it and accepts the word of the Council. In my case I had third party evidence which the Ombudsman flatly refused to look at.

In spite of that the Local Government Ombudsman still maintain they are impartial.

Select Committee evidence

During 2005 I gave evidence to a Government select committee. The select committee was enquiring into the "Role and Effectiveness of the Local Government Ombudsman".

Ombudsmanwatch

Visit this site to learn the truth about all the Local Government Ombudsmen.

The reason fo this blog

The reason I decided to write and maintain this blog is because I have suffered significant injustice through numerous acts of misfeasance, malfeasance and maladministration by the Local Government Ombudsman's York office. As a result I don't want others to suffer similar injustice.

What follows will be a very long series of postings exploring, in an had hoc way, the tricks the Ombudsman has used against me, the evidence that I have uncovered over the years to support my assertions and a list of everything that I feel is wrong with the Local Government Ombudsmen. I intend to maintain this blog until the Ombudsman does their job or ceases to exist.