The following is an extract from the minutes of a meeting held by the Commission for Local Administration in England (What the ombudsman are officially known as) on the 29th January 2008.
Mick King updated the Commission on his and Anne Seex’s researches into possible reasons for the increasing downwards trend in complaints received by the York office (18.7% fewer in the month of December; 10.5% fewer in the past 12 months).
Their researches suggested the following contributory factors:
• The transfers out of authorities -Trafford and Tower Hamlets.
• A steady overall decline in categories of complaint, in contrast to rises in some of the categories in London and Coventry eg complaints about parking and council tax.
• Analysis of the number of complaints received by authority revealed that, of the 10 authorities with the biggest decline in LGO complaints, eight had been the focus of LGO activities such as training and specific YMT initiatives. Mick King did however stress that it was too soon to be certain about this factor and that further research would be needed. He had, however, raised this with Theresa Kimble (York Communications project officer) who had noted a similar trend in other local authorities where training had taken place.
Anne Seex added that a further factor was the continuing transfer of council housing stock to registered social landlords by a number of northern authorities; this could help to explain the decline in the number of housing complaints received by York (which had increased in London and Coventry).
The report was noted by the Commission.
Now here's my suggestion. The real reason why complaints are reducing in York is because they find maladministration in only 34 cases out of every 10,000 complaints submitted. That's 200 times less than the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Even when compared to her fellow Local Government Ombudsmen the difference is still alarming. The Coventry office find maladministration in about 90 cases out of 10,000 whilst the London office find maladministration in about 68 cases out of 10,000.
Why should a complainant use a service which is demonstrably biased against them and fundamentally flawed. If I go into a shop and they short change me I don't go back and I make sure I tell my family and friends. This blog is a by-product of the York office's failure to do their job properly as is the PSOW website (Something that must irritate the hell out of the other two Local Government Ombudsmen). You can't keep conning your customers and expect their friends and family to use your service. I only went back for more to see if the new Ombudsman had made any improvements since my previous complaint. They haven't it's actually got a lot worse. Their staff still believe any old clap trap a council tells them and whilst this continues the York office is doomed. I just hope my blog has played a part in the significant reduction in the number of people submitting complaints to the York office.
The downward trend will only be reversed when people start to trust the York office and that will only happen when the York office investigators are told to stop conning complainants and start doing their job.
Using my case as an example, the York office constantly failed to validate council assertions, ignored evidence to the contrary, manipulated evidence to bolster the councils defence and weaken my case, took into account irrelevant information, failed to take into account relevant information and the list goes on and on.
The bottom line is that they don't meet customer expectations. I expected a fair, transparent and impartial investigation of my complaints and I didn't get it. I got a demonstrably unfair, opaque and biased investigation of my complaint. When an Ombudsman's office refuses to show you the evidence they relied on when reaching their decision you know something is seriously wrong. When an Ombudsman's office ignores your legal and human rights you know something is seriously wrong. When an Ombudsman's office manipulates evidence in favour of the council you know something is seriously wrong. When an Ombudsman's office obfuscates rather than crystalise a complaint you know something is seriously wrong. When an Ombudsman's office gives you misleading information you know something is seriously wrong. And the list goes on and on!
The above minutes also illustrate another significant problem, they always look for an excuse. Anything but admit that they delver an unfair and biased service that doesn't meet their customers expectations. Rule number one in any business 'always listen to the customer' rule number two, 'ignore them at your peril'.
Their own documents even accept that
'The public will only bring their complaints to the LGO (and their advisers recommend use of the service) if the service maintains its reputation for independence, quality and responsiveness to the needs of complainants.'
The problem is they don't deliver the qualities above to ensure the public will continue to use their service. Any pretence to independence is pure spin, Any pretence to quality of service is pure spin, any pretence to responsiveness is pure spin. Customers don't want spin, hype, rhetoric and glossy annual reports, they want their complaint investigated properly!
You cant's keep passing of an old banger of a service as a Rolls Royce service and expect to get away with it for long. Well you could before the Internet arrived but you can't now!