Sunday, May 11, 2008

A finding of maladministration is not the end.

Many people spend months if not years just trying to persuade a Local Government Ombudsman to investigate their complaint. What they hope for is a proper investigation followed by a finding of maladministration, an apology from the council and some sort of redress for the wrong. Or in the alternative a sound reason why the LGO decided there was no maladministration.

However, what they fail to appreciate is that a finding of maladministration from a Local Government Ombudsman is not the end of the story because many councils never actually provide the remedy they promise the Ombudsman.

Using my case as an example, during 1998 the then Ombudsman[1] found the then highway authority[2] guilty of maladministration. In January 1999 they promised the then Ombudsman that the roadway would be completed in such a way that it would have no impact on my property. However, during 2001 the highway authority attempted to complete the road in a way which would have an impact on my property. In essence the later highway authority was attempting to maladminister their way out of a problem that the earlier highway authority had maladministered their way into by the simple expediency of ignoring the promise made to the Ombudsman in 1998.

My first complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman was as a result of the highway authority threatening to complete the roadway in a way that would impact on my property. Therefore, when I submitted my second complaint I had high expectations that the Ombudsman would insist that the highway authority fulfil their earlier promise to her and stop attempting to complete the roadway in a manner that had a serious impact on my property.

My expectation were dashed when the Ombudsman, rather than castigating the highway authority for failing to live up to the 1998 promise, attempted to bury the problem by refusing to investigate my second complaint altogether.

This led to a four year battle trying to persuade a very reluctant Local Government Ombudsman to investigate my 2002 complaint. During 2006, following the earlier Ombudsman's retirement, the new Ombudsman agreed to investigate my complaint. I thought this would be a turning point because the issue was quite straight forward, the highway authority could not (and still can't) produce plans to prove that their planned works would not impact on my property and neither could they (and still can't) produce the statutory authority they need to carry out the works. Unfortunately, all the investigator appeared interested in was finding a way out of the problem for the highway authority. Rather proving what Local Government Ombudsman Watch have been asserting ever since they launched their website.

So we have the curious situation of my 1997 complaint concluded by the then LGO on the understanding that the roadway would be completed in a way in which it would not impact on my property and my 2002 complaint being concluded by the current LGO in the full knowledge that the roadway will impact on my property.

Most people are already aware that Local Government Ombudsmen have a predisposition to believe everything a council tells them. What is clear from my case that Local Government Ombudsman also have a predisposition to allow councils to break their promises. If that was not bad enough they also use their position to try and excuse the councils failure to fulfil their earlier promises.
Local Government Ombudsmen, impartial, no chance!

[1] The Ombudsman between 1997 and 2005 was Pat Thomas. Anne Seex replaced her during 2005.

[2] Under delegated powers the highway authority between 1991 and 1998 was Vale Royal Borough Council. During the Ombudsman's initial investigation Cheshire County Council ended the agreement with Vale Royal Borough Council and took over direct responsibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment