Sunday, July 01, 2007

The impotent Ombudsman

When you start to investigate the reasons for the constant delays in resolving your complaint you soon realise that the majority of them can be traced back to an impotent Ombudsman.

That's the underlying reason why they give the Council months to answer letters whilst expecting complainants to answer within a few weeks. The critical point is that Councils know the Ombudsman is impotent and aren't afraid to use that weakness to their advantage. Initially, the poor old complainant isn't aware so accepts unnecessary delay as a normal part of the Ombudsman's work.

That's also the underlying reason why Local Government Ombudsmen introduced local settlements. If a Local Government Ombudsman finds maladministration they can only suggest, not enforce, a remedy. The only thing the Local Government Ombudsman can force the Council to do, should they find maladministration, is publish their report in a local newspaper. That would cost the Council no more than £500. That means that if the Local Government Ombudsman can keep the remedy below £500 it is cheaper for the Council to meet the cost of the remedy than the newspaper costs.

So if the Council agree to provide the remedy (on average a lot less than the cost of publishing a report) the Local Government Ombudsman states that there was a 'local settlement' and drops the complaint. That way the Council don't have to meet the cost of publishing the report and use the money to provide the remedy suggested by the Local Government Ombudsman.

That's also the underling reason why they always believe the Council (see earlier posting). Essentially there is not a lot they can do even if they know the Council is lying to them. If they confronted the problem it would just prove they are impotent so it's better for them to live in a world of self denial.

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