Friday, August 15, 2008

[Part 1] Was this serious embarrassment to the LGO moved by Cheshire County Council as thanks to the LGO for burying Trevor's 2002 complaints?

Posted by Thomas whilst Trevor is on holiday.

Over the last couple of years or so if you visited Cheshire County Council's website and searched for the term 'Ombudsman' the first record always returned by their search engine was a case in which the Ombudsman had to apologise about a seriously bodged and flawed investigation. Any reference to that case has recently [within days of the Ombudsman publishing their report into Trevor's 2002 complaints.] been moved from the Cheshire County Council search page to a secondary search wider cheshire results. Was this serious embarrassment to the Ombudsman's office moved to a less prominent position as thanks to the Ombudsman for burying Trevor's 2002 complaints or is it just a coincidence? You decide.

OMBUDSMAN APOLOGISES TO FORMER MAYORS AFTER INVESTIGATION INTO LETTER ‘CLANGER’

Two former Lord Mayors of Chester wrongly accused in an Ombudsman’s letter have received an unreserved apology. An inexplicably ‘leaked’ Letter of Enquiry concerning allegations of maladministration against Chester City Council made inaccurate claims against husband and wife Councillors Graham and Sue Proctor.

It maintained that the Proctors were ‘out of order’ because they had failed to object to a tree felling in a conservation area within the three week consultation period. But the couple – who intervened in an attempt to protect the tree at the request of neighbours, when contractors turned up on site - had not even been told about the application.

Neither the Proctors, nor two other Chester City councillors representing the Vicars Cross Ward, had received any notification from the local authority.And no-one had even informed them that they had been criticised by the investigator. County Councillor Proctor demanded a full investigation into how the preliminary assessment was carried out.

In her reply, Deputy Ombusdman Beryl Bainbridge says that reference to the Proctors being ‘out of order’ was both ‘inappropriate’ and based on information later found to be ‘factually incorrect’. The Deputy Ombudsman has apologised and admits that the letter should not have made any reference at all to Mrs Proctor because she is a County Councillor and not a member of the District Council.

Today (Wednesday) County Councillor Proctor said: “Justice has been done and I am delighted that we have received a full and unreserved apology.

“The report was leaked to the press and as a result we were attacked in letters from political opponents who based their criticism on references in a seven-week-old document which were completely incorrect,” said County Councillor Sue Proctor.“To make matters worse, Chester City Council Chief Executive Paul Durham had actually notified the Ombudsman of the report’s mistake some time before it was leaked to the press.

“All in all, we have been the victims of a ‘clanger’ which has had extremely unfair and unfortunate results.” “This whole affair has been tremendously upsetting to both myself and my family,” said County Councillor Proctor, who returned from holiday to find the inaccurate report ‘leaked’ to the press. “We had been judged and publicly attacked on the basis of incorrect information and without being given the chance to comment either to the Ombudsman’s investigator or Chester City Council.”

Chester City Council’s Chief Executive has subsequently confirmed that the Proctors had not received any prior notification from the City Council about the owner’s proposal to fell the tree.

“The initial view that the Proctors were ‘out of order’ was not based on an accurate understanding of the facts and, in my view, is inaccurate,“ said Mr Durham. “It was the City Council’s actions in respect of the proposal to fell the tree which was being investigated by the Ombudsman – not the involvement of Councillors Graham and Sue Proctor.”

Thomas, Public Service Ombudsman Watchers.

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