Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Another way to keep yourself active whilst waiting for a Local Government Ombudsman to determine your complaint is to submit a few Freedom of Information requests.
Here is a few I have recently submitted using the new on-line What Do They Know service. Here are a few other people have submitted about the Local Government Ombudsman. Why not join in and submit a Freedom of Information request yourself. You never know you may just find out why they are taking so long with your own complaint. Don't forget you can submit a Freedom of Information request to any public Authority and that includes your own Council as well as the Local Government Ombudsman.
Lancaster Council now state: 'Mr Jerry White is the Local Government Ombudsman for this Council. This is due to the fact that Anne Seex is a former employee of this Council.'
So why did the Commission for Local Administration (CLAE) have a meeting in which Anne Seex was present (and everyone else present must have known about her connection with Lancaster) and reach a decision to take Trafford Council off her, because a relative of hers to to work for them and give her Lancaster Council in exchange?
Were the CLAE hoping to get away with the transfer before staff at Lancaster Council put a stop to it? Whatever the reason it would appear that Local Government Ombudsmen are determined to make themselves look stupid in everything they do.
However, with Jerry Whitewash being voted worst Local Government Ombudsman, as far as complainants are concerned, residents of Lancaster should be very concerned. PS I am a Lancastrian myself.
Option 1. Send me a copy of the plan that the council have given you (and now intend to rely on) and I will, using that plan, substantiate all my allegations (although I believe I have already substantiated all my allegations beyond any reasonable doubt). That s why I have been asking for a copy of the plan Cheshire County Council sent you (as part of their defence) for the last few months.
Option 2. Arrange a site meeting with [the man responsible for producing the plans] and I will do the same in front of both of you using plans already in your possession. Again that's why I suggested a joint meeting at the beginning of your investigation.
Unfortunately at that time I thought the Ombudsman was seeking the truth, however, since then I have come to realise that all they are concerned with is burying the truth and seeking a way out of the problem for the Council.
For here we are 16 months later and I still haven't been given a copy of the plan the council seek to rely on, but curiously won't show me, or told what specific statutory power they seek to rely on, but curiously won't tell me. Nor has the Ombudsman accepted my offer of a joint site meeting. Curious for someone who is supposed to be seeking the truth!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Essentially this is about Local Authorities getting in right first time to avoid further contact in order to put things right.
My case is a paradigm example of how much time, effort and money could be saved by getting it right first time. Or at least as soon as possible after an error is brought to the attention of the Public Authority. For example, if the Local Government Ombudsman had effectively done their job at any time between 1997 and 2002 they could have avoided all the further contact with me (and others) generated as a result of their failure to do that.
Now they are paying the price of their failure to get it right. In addition, if this is extrapolated over a few more complainants it's obvious that not getting it right is a serious drain on their resources. The question is, why do Local Government Ombudsmen spend more time, effort and money trying to bury complaints when they could do their job properly for a lot less effort and a lot less hassle.
Could it be that they have no choice in the matter because they are controlled by Local Authorities.
Friday, July 25, 2008
When Pat Thomas (LGO York Office) retired during 2005 she was replaced by Anne Seex. Mrs Thomas was not allowed to investigate complaints against Lancaster City Council because she lived in the area and had personal connections with the council. As a result Jerry White (LGO Coventry Office) investigated complaints about Lancaster City Council.
During 2006 Trafford Council asked if they could change Ombudsmen, they weren't happy with the way Anne Seex, Pat Thomas' replacement was investigating their complaints and wanted to change to a less negative Ombudsmen. Following this request the CLAE took Trafford off Anne Seex and gave it to Jerry White, whilst Lancaster was taken off Jerry White and given to Anne Seex. No doubt to balance the books as far as their work load was concerned. The reason given by the CLAE, 'because a relative of Anne Seex used to work for Trafford'. However, this swop ignores a more important impediment, Anne Seex herself used to work for Lancaster.
Their response to a Freedom of Information confirms the above. The key document can also be downloaded here
Newspaper article about Trafford's request to change Ombudsmen dated Friday, December 8th, 2006
The Commission for Local Administration decision to give Trafford to White and Lancaster to Seex, Tuesday 13th February 2007
Less than 3 months and with the Christmas holidays in between! It would appear from the facts and dates available that the Commission for Local Administration just used the Anne Seex 'relative' as an excuse to give Trafford what they wanted. For if they were that concerned about the issue they wouldn't have given her Lancaster. If there is no impediment to her investigating complaints against Lancaster why didn't they give her Lancaster when she took up the post of Ombudsman in 2005? And if there is no impediment to her investigating complaints against Lancaster how can they argue that there is an impediment to her investigating complaints against Trafford because a 'relative' of hers used to work for them.
Further proof, if any more was needed, that the Commission for Local Administration are under the control of councils. Local Government Ombudsmen, impartial, what do you think? Please vote in my poll at the head of my blog.
If you don't agree then explain this
Quote from Trafford: We're now pleased that because of this and other issues we've raised with the ombudsman's office, from April 2007 any cases involving Trafford Council will be dealt with by the ombudsman's office based at Coventry rather than York. You can read this statement at the bottom of the newspaper article published on Friday the 8th December 2006 , some 8 weeks before the Commission formally took their decision.
I addition why did the CLAE state the change was necessary because a relative of Anne Seex worked at Trafford when Trafford say it was because Anne Seex was too negative. Which is just a another way of saying she was not biased enough in their favour.
Longest wait for a promised remedy Version 1 Version 2
Longest undetermined complaint Version 1 Version 2
Will we get an answer to our questions this time? Or will the Ombudsman's office try and evade answering again but end up just making themselves look foolish in the process.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Request Number 1) Longest undetermined complaint?
1) Which complaint has remained unresolved for the longest period of time?
2) What was the reason for the delay?
3) What was the subject of the complaint?
4) Which Ombudsman/Ombudsmen were involved?
LGO Response: I am afraid the answer to question 1 is not information we hold. We only keep the paper files associated with complaints for 14 months and the computer records for 10 years after the cases are closed. As the Ombudsmen’s service has been in operation since 1974, we no longer hold any records on a good proportion of the complaints ever put to the Ombudsmen. It is therefore impossible to say which complaint has remained unresolved for the longest period of time. As I cannot answer question 1, it follows that I can’t answer question 2-4 either.
Our comment on their response: If Local Government Ombudsmen didn't close down unresolved cases then they would be able to supply the information requested for the simple reason that the complaint would still be open. Therefore, the answer implies that Local Government Ombudsmen close down unresolved complaints. Why are Local Government Ombudsmen closing down unresolved complaints? No doubt like ours they become an embarrassment that they prefer to sweep under the carpet.
Request number 2) Longest wait for a promised remedy.
1) What was/is the longest period of time a complainant has had to wait for a remedy promised to an Ombudsman by a Council, as a result of a finding of maladministration by the said Ombudsman, to be implemented?
2) What was the reason for the delay?
3) Which Ombudsman/Ombudsmen were/are involved?
LGO response: I am afraid the answer to question 1 is not information we hold. We only keep the paper files associated with complaints for 14 months and the computer records for 10 years after the cases are closed. As the Ombudsmen’s service has been in operation since 1974, we no longer hold any records on a good proportion of the complaints ever put to the Ombudsmen. It is therefore impossible to determine the longest period of time a complainant has had to wait for a remedy. As I cannot answer question 1, it follows that I can’t answer question 2-3 either.
Our comment on their response: This rather proves that Local Government have no interest in whether or not a complainant ever receives the promised remedy. How an earth can they tell if a council was lying to them or not if they don't check? Aren't they the least bit concerned when a council fails to fulfil a promise? Particularly one that was made in response to a finding of maladministration. It would appear that a council can promise a Local Government Ombudsman anything they want to get them off their backs knowing full well that the Ombudsman won't bother to confirms whether or not they have fulfilled their promise. What a scandal!
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and what proportion of employees of the Local Government Ombudsman have formerly worked in local government.
He received the following reply from John Healey, Department for Communities and Local Government.
Some 55 per cent. of the employees working for the Ombudsman previously worked in local government.
However, if you ask the right question, you get an altogether different answer. As at 1 May 2008, 68% of investigators, 61% of assistant ombudsmen and 100% of the three deputy ombudsmen previously worked in local government. In addition 100% of the Ombudsmen previously worked in local government.
It's a national disgrace that the government has allowed an organisation, set up to impartially investigate local government, to become infiltrated and controlled by such a large proportion of ex local government staff.
Now we know why Local Government Ombudsmen find and report maladministration in less than 1% of complaints submitted to them whilst the Parliamentary Ombudsmen finds maladministration in about 68% of the complaints submitted to her.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I hope you note the irony of the situation!
The Council are delaying sending me an apology about their previous unnecessary delays.
In any event, can anyone believe anything a Local Government Ombudsman tells them?
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I have duplicated the requests below but also added information about our case in blue. Let's see how the answers from the LGO compare with ours. We would not be surprised to find that someone has been waiting even longer than we have.
Which complaint has remained unresolved for the longest period of time? (Ours is over 11 years old but they keep changing the complaint numbers to hide the problem)
What was the reason for the delay? (Incompetence, impotence and bias)
What was the subject of the complaint? (Highways)
Which Ombudsman/Ombudsmen were involved? (Was Pat Thomas now Anne Seex, York Office)
What was/is the longest period of time a complainant has had to wait for a remedy promised to an Ombudsman by a Council, as a result of a finding of maladministration by the said Ombudsman, to be implemented? (The Council promised the then Ombudsman a remedy in January 1999 following their investigation into our 1997 complaint. Even though Pat Thomas found them gulty of maladministration we are still waiting for the promised remedy to be implemented.)
What was the reason for the delay? (Incompetence, impotence and bias.)
Which Ombudsman/Ombudsmen were/are involved? (Was Pat Thomas now Anne Seex, York Office.)
Read our on-line Freedom Of Information submission together with their response, when received, here and here.
Read about other Local Government Ombudsman Freedom Of Information requests here.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
All the Ombudsman has to do is delay until the Council rather than the complainant ceases to exist. For example, next April the two Councils that I have complaints against will cease to exist because a new unitary authority, Cheshire West and Chester will take over from Vale Royal Borough Council and Cheshire County Council. The Ombudsman has already written their farewell annual letter to both Councils so all they have to do is delay my complaint another few months. What's a few months more when I have been waiting more than 11 years?
The things an Ombudsman will do to cover up local authority wrongdoing never ceases to amaze me.
...but overall complaints received showed a small drop from 18,320 to 17,628. The LGOs say this may signal improvements in service delivery and better complaints handling by local authorities.
The LGO are entitled to their opinion, however, I think there is a better explanation. It's because they are totally ineffective in what they do and people are starting to get the message. It's all down to customer service, dissatisfied customers tell friends to avoid organisations like theirs. The truth is out and the only thing that can save the LGO is if the government keep expanding their portfolio faster than complainants desert them. Is that the band I hear playing?
Please refer to my earlier posting. The figure of 17,628 includes many double counted complaints so the LGO is actually masking the truth. For all we know there could have been a substantial reduction in submitted complaints but when they count them as often as they like who knows the truth? What about an independent audit?
If you would like to download the annual letter the Local Government Ombudsman sent to your Council please click here.
Once you have read a few you will note the sycophantic tone they are written in. Even when a Council has ignored an Ombudsman's recommendations the Ombudsman doesn't appear able to do anything but suck up to the Council.
Here's a typical example illustrating just how cunning Local Government Ombudsmen can be.
This is an extract from Trafford's annual letter.
Six complaints that had been determined as premature were resubmitted. One of these resulted in a local settlement, three were outside my jurisdiction and in one there was no or insufficient evidence of maladministration. The sixth complaint had yet to be determined by 31 March 2008.
That means three people (50%) were needlessly given the run around just to enhance the Local Government Ombudsman's statistics. The LGO should know if a complaint is within their jurisdiction and, if not, tell the complainant immediately of an appropriate organisation/person who can best deal with their complaint. However, that would have only given the Ombudsman one tick on their determined complaint statistics. By initially telling the complainant that their complaint was premature and then later telling them it's outside their jurisdiction the Ombudsman generates two ticks on their determined complaints statistics rather than one.
Did the LGO receive 17,628 complaints this last year or do they just fiddle their figures using tactics similar to the one above?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The answer from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government is the usual combination of spin and ignorance. Particularly when he states 'It is the policy of the Ombudsman to operate as openly as possible without putting at risk their investigations and the service they provide for the public'.
It may well be their published policy but that doesn't mean they actually operate as openly as possible.
In addition, just what 'service' do they proved for the public? They bury most of the complaints submitted to them and on the very rare occasion that they find in favour of a complainant and publish a report (less than 1% of submitted complaints) local authorities can, and often do, ignore them.
Ask Mr & Mrs Wright (Trafford) and the other 1% in which the Local Government Ombudsman finds in their favour in any given year and ask them if they got the 'service' they expected. I am still waiting for the service I expected when I submitted my initial complaint in 1997. Just how long does the government expect a complainant to wait for service? 12 years for a Local Government Ombudsman to persuade a local authority to fulfil a promise made to them doesn't feel much like service to me. It's feels more like a sentence.
And therein lies the problem, people suffer at the hands of local authorities and then suffer again at the hands of the Local Government Ombudsman. Whilst on the other hand, local authorities (the perpetrators) save money because of their initial maladministration and then save again when they refuse to follow the ombudsman's recommendations or the Ombudsman lets them of the hook for a paltry settlement.
My full response is on the TheyWorkForYou website.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
- No accountability.
- Failure to hold others to account for their actions.
- No power to enforce recommendations.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
A complainant's view of the CLAE: An unaccountable and significantly biased pseudo judicial quango that's controlled by a government minister approved cabal of ex-local authority chief executive officers. A group that has, over the last few years, systematically reduced the chance of a citizen obtaining an appropriate level of redress, for the injustice they have suffered through local authority maladministration, to almost zero.
Government's view of the CLAE: A statutory quasi judicial body used to give citizen's the misleading impression that an effective system of administrative justice exists in England.
Local Authorities view of the CLAE: A statutory quasi judicial body to which our minister has appointed our friends and ex colleagues, who now, for our mutual benefit
- hides the true level of our maladministration from the citizen's of this country.
- significantly reduces the chance of us, or our minister, from having to face the consequences of our incompetence, maladministration and wrongdoings.
Friday, July 11, 2008
In addition newspapers have little relevance in the world of today. When most people have a problem with the LGO they go on-line and carry out a Google search. This is how I found Ombudsman Watch over 5 years ago and this is how many of my readers find my blog. Newspapers also use Google for research purposes so when the LGO finally become news worthy my blog will show up in their research. I have already been approached by a couple of newspapers for comments on particular councils as a result of my posts.
In my case delay has been a counter productive tactic for the Ombudsman to use for the last few years. For if they had pulled their finger out a few years ago and resolved my case I would not be here now producing such damning evidence against them, I would be enjoying my early retirement.
If you would like to start a blog about your own case all you have to do is click on 'create a blog' at the right hand side of the header to my blog. It's easier than you think and lots of fun. You can create and delete as many blogs as you want so why not give it a go.
- They had already asserted that the council didn't need any of my land so why were they attempting to value it?
- I had previously sold a few small parcels of my land to various neighbours for hundreds of pounds a square metre.
As I have said before never believe anything an LGO investigator tells you. Check it out for yourself.
The Ombudsman's continued delay in determining/resolving my complaint over the last 12 years has given me more than enough time to check out both the council's and the investigator's assertions. I can now prove that most of what they have both asserted over the last few years is nothing more than fallacious argument shored up by irrelevant facts to fabricate their own version of reality.
Here are just a few examples, after 12 years I literally have a shed load:
- The Ombudsman asserts that Renault has told them that my vehicle can access and egress a 1 in 10 slope at the entrance to my property. However, the investigator failed to show Renault the council plans or even mention that there would also be a 9 inch step to negotiate. That means investigator simply got the answer they wanted, one to shore up the council''s position, by the simple expediency of manipulating the facts they gave to Renault. Even worse I don't even own a Renault van I own a Peugeot Boxer van.
- The investigator has twice suggested that the County Council didn't need planning permission. However, by checking things out for myself on the UK Statute Law Database I can confirm that, at the material time, the council did in fact need planning permission. So why has the investigator gone out of their way over the last few years to pretend they didn't?
- The investigator suggested that I couldn't prove the level of my land to better than 8 inch (plus or minus 4 inch). Even though it was surveyed and shown on the original road plans to an accuracy of a few millimetres. In any event, the council also produce a guide for developers stating that any new roadway must be finished to an accuracy of a few millimetres. Over the years all surveyors have used similar equipment and the same datum point. So why does the investigator think the council can prove the level of the land on one side of the boundary to an accuracy of a few millimetres whilst my surveyor can't prove the land level on my side of the boundary to better than 8 inch. The answer is simple, in order to find in the councils favour they desperately needed a way to hide the step.
With Ministers as stupid as ours this sticker strategy could become accepted as the norm for all public authorities (and quangos). That means we could end up with Local Government Ombudsmen offering 'I complained to the LGO' stickers as an incentive for people to submit a complaint to them. In that case let me offer you an alternative
[Instructions to make your own stickers: Right click on the image and save the image of the badge to your own computer. Print as many of these as you want onto some sticky backed printer paper. Cut around each image.]
However, this tactic can also be turned against them for all you need to do is start gathering evidence of their systematic use of this deplorable tactic and when you are ready publish and be damned. You may not get your complaint resolved to your satisfaction but at least you will have the satisfaction of saving thousands of other people from following in your footsteps by exposing their use of this deplorable tactic.
I made this decision a long time ago so all their unwarranted delays do is to increase the evidence I have against them.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
With Ministers as stupid as ours this doughnut strategy could actually become the norm. Why bother trying to improve a public authority at all when all you have to do is empower them to offer free doughnuts.
At the moment the Law Commission are busy trying to destroy any legal alternative for administrative redress so people will be forced to use the Local Government Ombudsmen. However, if they were as 'bright' as Hazel all they had to do was empower the Ombudsmen to offer more doughnuts than the courts.
If like me you are still waiting for the LGO to resolve your complaint then please consider responding to the Law Commission consultation.
A short summary is available here, a press summary is available here, Whilst the main consultation document is available here, Please visit the Law Commission website here for more information.
Thanks to the public forum and the psow news feed for the information and links. The consultation closes in November 2008.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Therefore, we have a conundrum, are the roads adopted or unadopted? Either the LGO didn't bother to validate the true position of the roads or Cheshire County Council are failing in their statutory duty to keep an up to date gazetteer.
 Highway Authorities are statutory obliged to keep an accurate and up to date road adoption gazetteer. Cheshire County Council is the Highway Authority for this area.
The Ombudsman’s investigation finds that the Council delayed seriously in making decisions about whether it owes a full housing duty to homeless applicants.
Pity Ombudsmen don't practice what they preach because I have now been waiting over 6 years for the Ombudsman to make a decision regarding my second complaint. If that's not serious delay I don't know what is.
Unfortunately the lack of accountability means there is nobody to find a Local Government Ombudsman guilty of maladministration and therein in lies the problem.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
From an original quote by Theodore Roosevelt
Thursday, July 03, 2008
- Why do Local Government Ombudsmen spend more time, effort and taxpayers money trying to bury complaints of maladministration for the benefit of Local Authorities rather than doing the job they are supposed to do?
- Why do Local Government Ombudsman report less than 1 % of complaints submitted to them as maladministration when the true figure is around 30%?
- Why do Local Government Ombudsmen spend years trying to resolve a problem for the Local Authority rather than just investigating and reporting the facts?
- Why don't Local Government Ombudsman adhere to the rules of natural justice?
- What hold do Local Authorities have over Local Government Ombudsmen?
- Why are Local Government Ombudsmen recruited from the ranks of the people they are investigating?
- Why are Local Government Ombudsmen so bad at what they do?
- Why do Local Government Ombudsmen hide the true number of Local Authorities that ignore their recommendations?
- Why do Local Government Ombudsmen manipulate their customer satisfaction surveys?
- Why do Local Government Ombudsmen manipulate their statistics?
- Why don't you get rid of Local Government Ombudsmen and introduce a less biased and fairer system?
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Human Rights Act (Part II. The First Protocol)
Article 1: Protection of property (this includes land)Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
I have been waiting 7 years for the Councils to tell me what specific statutory power (subject to the conditions provided for by law ) gives them the legal right to interfere with my property. All they assert is that they have 'powers at large' but refuse to be more specific so I can legally challenge their assertions. That in itself is maladministration.
In the alternative, I have been waiting 7 years for the Councils to provide proper plans proving that the roadway, when completed, will not impact my property. They have refused to show me the necessary plans. That in itself is maladministration.
The Council know it's impossible to complete the road without it impacting on my property. They also know I will self abate if they attempt to complete the roadway. They also know that if it gets to court they will have no other option but to give me a proper copy of the plans or tell me what specific statutory power they rely on to legally interfere with my human rights. Hence the reason why they have never attempted to complete the works over the last 7 years.
Curious how, over the last 7 years, the LGO has never told the Council to give me a copy of the plans (to prove that the works will not interfere with my human rights) or tell me what specific statutory power they rely on to legally interfere with my human rights. Something a court would have insisted on at the pre-action stages.
Even more difficult to accept is the LGO's ongoing attempts to bolster the Councils case and de-construct my case with fallacious or irrelevant arguments and manipulated evidence whilst refusing to allow me to see, let alone controvert, the Council's plans and evidence.
So the question remains, just what is that motivates Local Government Ombudsmen to spend years trying to help Councils out of their self created difficulties rather than the few minutes it would take to do their job properly?
In June 1997 the Borough Council threatened to complete a road in such a way that it would impact on my property. I complained to the LGO. The LGO issued a report. As a result the Council promised the LGO that the road would be completed without any impact on my property. The County Council took over responsibility for the road in 1999. During 2001 they tried to complete it in such a way that it would impact on my property. The County Council's actions also entrenched the position of the road making it impossible for the road to be completed without it impacting on my property. During 2002 I submitted a second complaint to the LGO. 7 years later and I am still waiting for the County Council to give me a copy of the plans which would prove that the completion of the road would not have any impact on my property or be told what specific statutory power gives them the legal authority to interfere with my property rights. Failure to do so is an infringement of my Human Rights under Article one of protocol one. After 11 years involvement (6 years since my second complaint) the LGO has still shown no interest in accepting this basic fact nor in determining my complaint. Unsurprisingly, however, they have spent the last 11 years trying to get the Councils out of their self created difficulties.
Did you manage it in less than a minute or do you want 11 years (and counting) like the Local Government Ombudsman?
PS, now for the punch line: The County Council even told the LGO during the first investigation that it would be impossible to complete the road in it's current position without it impacting on my property. In addition they even produced a plan to move the road but discounted that option when they couldn't get the developer's insurance company to pay for it.
In essence, just like many other Councils, they are just trying to maladministering their way out of a problem they maladministered their way into just to save the cost of any remedial action. However, it's a bit much when a Local Government Ombudsman helps them by turning a blind eye to ongoing maladministration.
The question is what motivates Local Government Ombudsmen to spend years trying to help Councils out of their self created difficulties rather than the few minutes it would take to do their job properly?
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
On the 8th July I will be sixty years old. Unbelievably I started my fight for justice in June 1997 when I was 48 years old. No right minded person would have expected my case to remain unresolved after this many years. Is it really too much to expect the LGO's office to make a final determination on a complaint I first raised in 2002. Especially since this was as a consequence of the council's ongoing failure to provide the remedy promised to the LGO in January 1999 as a result of my 1997 complaint.