Friday, August 31, 2007

Public Service News 2

There is another article in the Public-Servant-Daily. Read it in full here.

Council ditches 'too negative' ombudsman.

Trafford Council didn't agree with an Ombudsman's decision so they changed Ombudsmen. How convenient! Just a pity complainants can't do the same.

Is this what Local Government Ombudsmen call impartiality. If a Council doesn't agree with their findings then they can change Ombudsmen but if a complainant doesn't agree with their findings tough!

As far as the complaint against Trafford is concerned I think the Ombudsman was right. However, allowing the Council to publicly state they have ditched the Ombudsman because they think they are too negative just makes the system of administrative justice in this country (Local Government Ombudsmen) look like puppets of the Council.

Trafford Council: A case of 'my Ombudsman won't play ball so I am swapping Ombudsmen'. How pathetic!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Public Service News

'Local government does not observe much respect for the LGO, possibly because the compensation tends to be very low. Compensation should be raised to levels where managers/priorities/budgets/jobs/ are re-assessed'

In addition to recommending compensation, the LGO should be able to recommend structural/personnel changes at management levels of local government. When local government is forced to address matters raised by the LGO, the system will begin to work as normal citizens would expect'.

Keith Brockwell - Cllr Crawley Borough Council

My comment: If local government doesn't observe much respect for the LGO (and we know complainants don't) then how can the LGO consider themselves to be a credible organisation?

Are national government aware that no one respects the LGO? Surely that's a good enough reason for scrapping the organisation?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Strange but true

The highway adjacent to my property is being maintained by the County Council even though it's unadopted. However, on another part of the development the highway is still being maintained by the developer (who completed the site six years ago) even though it's been adopted.

The question is why is a developer still maintaining an adopted highway six years after they left the site? In addition, they are still maintaining an area of open space and a playground six years after they were supposed to be transferred to the Council. In essence people have been living in some of the houses on the estate in breach of the section 106 planning agreement for over six year.

Funny how the Borough Council can ignore serious planning breaches by the developer and the County Council but take enforcement action over a young girl and a rabbit hutch.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chronology of delay

Chronology of delay? (It looks more like collusion to the average observer.)

Still no sign of the provisional report I was promised at the end of February 2007. Read my post on the subject here

6 Months just to finalise a provisional report appears to be an inordinate length of time when the Local Government Ombudsman boasts that the average complaint only takes them 14 weeks to complete.!

Here's the chronology so far:
June 1997 Borough Council threaten to complete a roadway that would impact on my property.
June 1997 Submitted my first complaint to Local Government Ombudsman.
October 1998 Ombudsman produced a report and asked the council to provide a remedy.
June 2001 County Council, without the necessary planning permission, attempt to redesign and complete the roadway. Their plans prove the roadway would still impact on my property.
March 13th 2002 Submitted a second complaint to Local Government Ombudsman.
March 20th 2002 Local Government Ombudsman end their involvement (supposed to be monitoring the Councils actions) with my first complaint.
April 2002 Local Government Ombudsman refuses to investigate my second complaint.
May 2006 After an epic 4 year struggle the Local Government Ombudsman agree to 'comeback' on my 2001 complaint. Informed by Ombudsman that due to the delay my case will now receive some priority.
February 2007 Informed by Ombudsman that the provisional report was nearly ready.
August 27th 2007 Still waiting for the Council to provide a remedy for my first complaint. No provisional report into my second complaint. At this time I have still not even seen the Councils defence of my second complaints.

Furthermore, I am still waiting for an explanation from the Local Government Ombudsman as to how two Councils could commit further acts of maladministration whilst they were ostensibly monitoring the Councils actions regarding their earlier finding of maladministration. Please note the date of my second complaint and the date the Local Government Ombudsman ended their involvement with my first complaint. Coincidence? Collusion? Incompetence? Impotence? You decide.

Over ten years and counting. I wonder how long I would have had to wait if my case hadn't been prioritised by the Ombudsman?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Open letter to MORI

An open letter for the attention of the Manager and/or Team responsible for the 2007 Local Government Ombudsman Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I was a customer of the Local Government Ombudsman during your 1999 Local Government Ombudsman Customer Satisfaction Survey. I also agreed to take part in your survey, however, after the initial approach, when I made it clear that I was very dissatisfied with the Local Government Ombudsman, no further contact was made.

During the 1999 survey some 11% of the initial sample was excluded by the Local Government Ombudsman, an unusually large number by any stretch of the imagination. Furthermore, for a professional survey organisation such as yourself, no checks and balances appear to have been made on the real reason for the exclusion of such a large group of people. I believe I was one of those excluded by the LGO.

I am also in the unique position of being a customer of the Local Government Ombudsman during your current 2007 customer satisfaction survey. However, between the two surveys I also gave evidence to the Government Select Committee's investigation into the Role and Effectiveness of the Local Government Ombudsman. One of the complaints made against the Local Government Ombudsman was that they had discontinued the 5 yearly MORI survey because of the devastating results.

Obviously I am very pleased that external pressure has now forced the Local Government Ombudsman to reintroduce the MORI Customer Satisfaction Survey but still remain very concerned that the Local Government Ombudsman will attempt to manipulate the results of this latest survey, as they appeared to have done during 1999. Unfortunately, the problems you had with the Rotherham Council Bramley traffic scheme questionnaire don't exactly instill me with confidence.

I hope my concerns are unfounded and await the survey results with interest.

Yours faithfully,

Trevor R Nunn (Customer of the Local Government Ombudsmen from June 1997 to date.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

1974 Local Government Act

The '1974 Local Government Act' button above now links to the UK Statute Law Database version of the Act. The launch of the UK Statute Database earlier this year has now made our copy redundant.

The Database now allows individuals to access statutory instruments on line so it's now very easy to check the validity of a statutory body's assertions. For example, earlier this year I used the Highway Act (among others) to prove that the County Council had lied to me regarding their need to obtain planning permission during 2001.

As most watchers are aware local authorities often quote some Act or other to support their position. Well you can now check the wording of the said Act for yourself to see if they are actually telling the truth or just spinning a line.

Knowledge is power

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Deja vue

I have just been reading the 2006/7 Local Government Ombudsman's annual review and came across an interesting case study. There are strong similarities to my complaint.

A Mr Smith complained that the council had mistakenly granted a certificate of lawfulness for his neighbours extension, which came right up to his boundary. Both the law and the council's policy required it to have planning permission.

The Ombudsman said the case was 'a tale of very substantial and serious error, incompetence and delay'. There is now a three story extension where there should not be one.

As far as my case is concerned the council certificated a local distributor road that a developer had started to construct in 1991, even though they had known for a year that it wasn't being constructed in the planned position and that it couldn't be completed without impacting on my property. During 2001 the County Council redesigned the highway and attempted to complete it, however, they did this without the necessary planning permission and in full knowledge that it would still impact on my property.

I consider this another 'tale of very substantial and serious error, incompetence and delay' for the following reasons. There is now a Class 3A local distributor road in a position it shouldn't be in. To complete it (in it's current position) they need to encroach on my land not just come right up to the boundary. Most people would agree that issuing a certificate for a highway that's in the wrong position is a very serious error, however, when you take into account that the council knew about the problem the year before issuing the certificate it beggars belief. In fact it takes local authority incompetence to a new level. Furthermore, most people would agree that 16 years is a significant delay. In addition, the County Council should, by law and council policy, have applied for planning permission but they failed to do so. However, what makes my case more damning is that the County Council then lied about their need for planning approval.

However, there is a distinct difference in the two cases, the Ombudsman has resolved Mr Smiths complaint. Mine has still not been resolved despite the fact that the Ombudsman has carried out two investigations (1997/8 and 2006/7) and been involved with my case for over ten years.

Want to know why? Well in Mr Smith's case the Ombudsman suggested a remedy to the council. However, the council can ignore the remedy and there is nothing Mr Smith (or the Ombudsman) can do about it. The bottom line is that his complaint is now closed and the best he can hope for is that the council actually deliver the remedy suggested by the Ombudsman.

My case is slightly different in that the County Council need some of my land in order to complete the highway. That means that if they ignore the Ombudsman's suggested remedy, as they did in 1998, it doesn't end the matter. So in essence the Ombudsman can't stuff me as easy as they do others.

That's why the County Council actions during 2001 led to another complaint. So what's the point in the Ombudsman making more recommendations they can't enforce when it's going to make them look like impotent fools. Hence the difficulty they are having winding up my complaint and the reason why it took them 5 years to start investigating my 2002 complaint in the first place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's justice we want!

In their special report: Local Partnerships and Citizen Redress

Local Government Ombudsmen state '
Complainants.... want their complaint resolved and they want it resolved quickly'. [my emphasis]

If Local Government Ombudsmen know what a complainant wants, then why don't they provide it? It's no good telling everyone else then ignore it themselves. I have been waiting patiently for them to resolve my complaint for over ten years now. The Bachins had to wait 14 years.

However, I don't think the primary aim of any complainant is for their complaint to be resolved quickly. Mine has always been to secure justice by ensuring that the authority who committed the act of maladministration complained about is held to account. Put simply I want justice! and if that takes twenty years to obtain then I will wait twenty years.If the Ombudsman can't do their job in a reasonable amount of time then that's their problem not mine. They are the ones looking like incompetent and impotent idiots not me.

Local Government Ombudsmen only suggest that
'complainants want their complaint resolved quickly' as an excuse to impose local settlements. A well known method used by Local Government Ombudsmen to bury complaints. However, this is for the the benefit of the authority concerned and usually without the agreement of the complainant.


What complainants?

The Local Government Ombudsmen have just published a special report: Local partnerships and citizen redress.

They state that the report is aimed partly at the complainants themselves, who we hope will ultimately benefit from it. [my emphasis]

We consulted widely on a draft of this report and we thank the following who responded and provided helpful suggestions:

• Association of Directors of Social Services and Association of Directors of Children’s Services (joint response)

• Audit Commission

• Chief Executives’ London Committee

• Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)

• Council on Tribunals

• Improvement and Development Agency (I&DeA)

• Local Government Association

London Borough of Islington

• Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

• Professor Martin Partington CBE (Law Commission)

Somerset County Council

• The Standards Board for England

We also gratefully acknowledge the input of Commission staff, especially

Peter MacMahon, in preparing this report.

Just a pity they didn't bother asking complainant's for their views!

It appears that the LGO still hold the view that organisations (the cause of the problems) know better than the citizen (the one's who suffer the injustice).

Impartial? What do you think?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

LGO fact sheet

LGOwatch has just published a Local Government Ombudsman fact sheet that may be of interest to readers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tree V Highway

The Local Government Ombudsman's office investigating my complaint issued a report during 2004 finding of maladministration against Vale Royal Borough Council regarding a tree preservation order. Click here to read the report.

One of the recommendations was that the Council should follow correct procedures for imposing a TPO. [Tree preservation order][My emphasis]

In contrast during 2001 Cheshire County Council and Vale Royal Borough Council failed to follow the correct procedures when redesigning the highway in the vicinity of my property.

It would appear that if you complain about something trivial (failure to follow procedure when issuing a tree preservation order) then your complaint is resolved quite quickly but complain about something more serious (failure to follow correct planning procedures when removing a footway from a road), and the Local Government Ombudsman takes forever to investigate and produce a report!

FASSIT

Every now and again you come across a story so outrageous that it's impossible to believe.

Denise Robertson - ITV This Morning, stated
'the Sheer scale of the injustice is far worse than anyone can imagine'. So what's behind all this injustice? You've guessed it, none other than Social Services, yet another ineffective Local Authority institution that is governed by incompetent officials but perversely protected by Government. Just how bad do things have to be before MPs stand up against this sort of outrage!


Families Anti-Social Service Inquiry Team (Fassit) website explains more

Remember Social Service's next victim could be you!

Friday, August 10, 2007

A tale of two highway departments

There was an interesting article in the newspaper today about a little old lady who tends a public flowerbed. For years she spent time, money and effort in an attempt to make her village look more attractive to visitors. So much so that she was even encouraged by her local council and praised by residents. However the highway department now insist that she puts up three road signs, has two lookouts to watch for danger and also wears a bright yellow fluorescent safety jacket whilst tending the village flower garden. The highway authority concerned is obviously taking their responsibility for 'elf and safety' extremely seriously. One could even argue too seriously.

On the other hand Cheshire County Council redesigned a roadway in the vicinity of my property during 2001. (without the proper plans, planning approval or safety audit) Although the original plans for the class 3A distributor road shows a footpath on both sides of the road, the highway authority concerned decided in 2001 (in order to save themselves money) to remove the footpath on one side of the road altogether. This would force pedestrians to leave the relative safety of the footway and continue their journey by walking along the edge of the road.

If that's not bad enough the planned footway is actually on the bend of the road. A class 3A local distributor road is not even a quiet village or estate road, it is in fact only just below classified standard. In any event it's a damn sight more dangerous walking in the road than working in a large village flower garden so will Cheshire County Council put up road signs, post lookouts and offer pedestrians the use of a bright yellow fluorescent safety jackets? I doubt it. Unlike the highway authority above they appear more interested in saving money than saving peoples lives. However, this is the County Council who wasted money on roadwork signs written in Polish so anything is possible.

I wonder what they (and the Ombudsman) will do when someone is badly injured or killed? No doubt they will blame everybody but themselves.

It's not rocket science!

Some 18,000 people complain to the LGO (Local Government Ombudsman) every year. However, because the LGO don't clearly explain what they can and can't investigate only about 10,000 of those complaints actually fall within their remit. That means that some 8000 people a year waste time and effort submitting a complaint to the wrong body. The private sector wouldn't put up with such a drain on their resources and would soon find a way of educating people about their business. It's not rocket science after all it's simple marketing.

So why does the LGO accept this curious situation (nearly 50% of the people who complain to them shouldn't have done) , without seeking and promoting an effective remedy.

The answer is simple. The LGO use these 8,000 people to manipulate their headline grabbing statistics. The average cost of resolving a complaint provides an example. The LGO, unlike other Ombudsmen, include all complaints (curiously even those that don't even fall within their remit to investigate). As a result they can imply that each complaint cost them some £600 rather than £1,100 to resolve.

Are they really suggesting that it costs them an average of £600 just to send a complainant a letter telling them that their complaint is outside their remit to investigate. Surely it would be more cost effective to market their service correctly so people know exactly what they can and can't do in the first place.

If people kept knocking at your door asking for someone who didn't live at your house, how long would it be before you put a sign on your door. However, I bet you would remove the sign if I promised to give you £600 for everyone you redirected.

Here's one of my statistics. Using the LGO's own figures it costs the taxpayer about £4.8 million a year just to tell 8,000 people they can't investigate their complaint. I wonder why the Audit Commission puts up with such an extravagant use of taxpayers cash?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Are the LGO a social evil?

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has launched a study to identify what are today's social evils.

If you think the Local Government Ombudsman may be a social evil then why not visit the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and complete their very short survey. No personal information needs to be given. Although I have included my name and email address hoping that my suggestions, of what I think today's social evils are, will be taken more seriously.

Public Services unfit for the pupose.

The influential Public Administration Select Committee states that there is a lack of leadership at the top of the civil service and serious deficiencies in the way Whitehall carries on its business. They state that not one Government department is fit for the purpose.

Most citizens already know that the same is true of Local Government departments. One of the main reasons being the weak and ineffective watchdogs known as Local Government Ombudsmen. Whilst Local Government Ombudsmen are allowed to help Local Government bury maladministration rather than expose it there will never be any incentive to improve the situation. The same can be said about the Information Commissioner and other watchdogs.

However, the Public Administration Select Committee suggests that yet another so called 'independent watchdog' could be set up to scrutinise civil service performance.

It’s ironic how the Public Select Committee think that they can improve ineffective government departments by adding another ineffective watchdog! Will they never learn?

Looks like the Public Administration Select Committee is also unfit for the purpose!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

LGO: Unfit for the purpose 3

Another of the complaints I submitted during March 2002 was that the Councils 'acted unreasonably and took inappropriate decisions because of self-imposed constraints and ulterior motives'.

This was one of the self imposed constraints imposed by the Councils. [Evidenced in writing]

The chief executive of the County Council stated that he was not prepared to allow me to have a veto over the design and final construction of the roadway in the vicinity of my property. (Even though the roadway couldn't be completed without impacting on my property.)

This was one of their ulterior motives. [Evidenced in writing/meeting transcripts/behaviour]

They didn't want to pay to resolve the problem they helped create.

This is one of their inappropriate decisions. [Evidenced by their dodgy plan and their failure to produce cross sectional drawings and seek the necessary planning approval before they attempted to complete the works.]

Triggering the insurance bond in an attempt to get a third party to do their dirty work.

Another complaint in which a six year old child would have had no difficulty in finding maladministration in days, yet five and a half years later here I am still waiting for a decision from the Local Government Ombudsman!

Knowing Local Government Ombudsmen it's doubtful that they will even find the maladministration I complained about but even if they do just what is the point of having an Ombudsman who can't do their job in a reasonable amount of time.

A well known maxim is that 'Justice delayed is justice denied'

So by definition 'delay' is unjust and hence delay is 'maladministration'.


Curious how both Local Authorities and Local Government Ombudsmen are not afraid to commit acts of maladministration whilst carrying out their duties.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Provisional Report

I have been told that a draft report regarding my March 2002 complaints is now with the Ombudsman. However, I have still not seen (let alone been given a copy of) the County Council's defence to any of my complaints and neither have I seen (or been given a copy of) the cross sectional plans on which they base their assertions. In fact as far as I am aware the Ombudsman hasn't been able to obtain the documents in question.

If the Ombudsman has the powers of a high court judge, as they often assert, then obtaining the necessary documents should have been easy. In any event if they follow normal legal practice, and the Council has not submitted a substantive defence, then they should find in my favour.

However, knowing how Local Government Ombudsmen operate I am not holding out much hope.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another tale of two Ombudsmen

Recently the Local Government Ombudsman's office in Coventry found a Council guilty of maladministration because they didn't follow their own policy guidelines. However, the Local Government Ombudsman's office in York recently told me that a Council doesn't have to follow their own policy guidelines because they are merely guidelines and not a legal requirement.

Funny how two Ombudsmen supposedly doing the same job in different parts of the country hold opposing views.

Looks like we now have 'post code' LGO justice as well as 'post code' health care and 'post code' care for our senior citizens.