Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Truth is out, now the Audit Commision know!

Following my earlier post 'The truth is out' I noticed that the Audit Commision had visited my blog. They arrived via the link on the What Do They Know Website read my post about Nigel Karney misleading the Department of Communities and Local Government and then checked out my personal profile.



The links clicked on by the Audit Commission are reproduced below.

Referring URL http://www.whatdothe...information_given_to
Visit Entry Page http://lgowatcher.bl...07/truth-is-out.html
Visit Exit Page http://lgowatcher.bl...07/truth-is-out.html
Out Click http://www.blogger.c...13970042186955611938

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Head in the sand or deliberately ignoring the evidence?

An extract from the minutes of the meeting of the Commission held at Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP in the Board Room, 15th floor on Tuesday 29 January 2008 at 11.30am.

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.

How typical of Local Government Ombudsmen, ignoring evidence that's right under their noses. What is the main reason why any organisation loses customers? Because the organisation in question provides a poor quality service or product, common sense to most people but obviously rocket science to the LGO.

The bottom line is that the service they offer stinks. Their staff, often

• lie to complainants
• accept the word of council staff (even when overwhelming evidence to the contrary is available)
• interpret evidence, the law, codes and guidelines in favour of the council
• assist councils by fabricating documents
• use fallacious reasoning to support the councils position
• disregard evidence and in some cases whole complaints

And the list goes on and on.

Over the years the government has continually expanded their remit to increase the number of people submitting complaints but even that can't mask the fact that their customers are deserting them in droves for one simple reason. They do not offer the impartial service they advertise. The system of administrative justice in England stinks and will continue to stink until the LGO are replaced by an open and honest tribunal system that is not controlled and manned by ex council staff.

Footnote: Ironically one of the reasons they gave for complaint numbers being on a downward trend is because Trafford Council was transferred from the York office to the Coventry office. However, Trafford like most of their other customers has simply had enough of the discredited York office and requested a change of Ombudsman. Just a pity complainants can't do the same!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman (Update 2)

When I found out that they were recruiting a new Ombudsman to replace Jerry White, Coventry, I sent an email outlining my concerns to the scrutiny committee on the 1st June 2009. On the 10th of June 2009 I received an acknowledgement. Yesterday I decided to check my email statistics and noticed that between the 1st June 2009 and the 22nd June 2009 my email had been read on 36 separate occasions. I think that may well be a record for one of my emails. Better still they clicked on all the links I had included. Now we know who visited my blog on the 20th and 22nd June 2009 from the Houses of Parliament. See visitor stats in the last post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Didn't take long. See post below 'The truth is out' (Updated 22/7/09)


The truth is out!

Introduction

Evidence proving that Nigel Karney, Deputy Chief Executive & Secretary of the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE), more commonly known as Local Government Ombudsmen (LGO), provided misleading information to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) regarding the LGOs true compliance rates for the year 2007/8.

Background summary

A few years ago Wilma Wright submitted a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) because Trafford Council had not fulfilled its statutory obligations regarding her daughter’s special housing needs. Eventually the York based LGO, Ann Seex, found in her favour (an extremely rare event as Mrs Seex produces very few findings of maldministration), and recommended a remedy for the maladministration she had found Trafford Council guilty of committing. Unfortunately for Wilma Wright and her daughter Trafford Council refused to provide the remedy recommended by Mrs Seex. (as many other councils have also done) [Refer to appendix 1 at the end for more information about the relationship between Trafford Council and Mrs Seex]
As a result of Trafford Council’s failure to provide the remedy recommended by Mrs Seex and lacking the financial support necessary to take legal action or seek a judicial review, Mrs Wright decided to petition the Prime Minister to make the recommendations of a Local Government Ombudsman mandatory. [Refer to appendix 2 at the end for more information.]

Mrs Wright’s petition managed to achieve the appropriate number of signatures to guarantee a response from the Prime Minister's office. Unfortunately, the response from the Prime Minister's office included a material inaccuracy. It wrongly stated that the LGO’s compliance rate, during 2007/8, was 100%. The Prime Minister's office response was not only blatantly wrong, it was downright ridiculous because, as anyone could see, Mrs Wright’s petition would not have existed if the LGO’s compliance rate was 100%. [Refer to appendix 3 at the end for more information]

My investigation

Having helped Wilma Wright with her petition and as a signatory I was incensed at the Prime Minister's office response of the 27th March 2009 for two reasons. Firstly, the material inaccuracy and secondly, the fact that nobody who had actually read the petition, would have ever suggested that the LGO’s compliance rates were 100%. How could they be 100% when the Prime Minister's Office was responding to a petition that was based on the non compliance of an LGO’s recommended remedy? [Refer to appendix 4 at the end for more information.]

Therefore, I decided to do something about the situation and chose to use the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to track down the person responsible for the material inaccuracy in the Prime Minister's office response to Wilma Wright’s petition. To make the whole process transparent I also decided to use the excellent What Do They Know website to submit my requests.
On the 1st April 2009 my first FOI request was submitted to Number 10. They responded on the 1st May 2009 and stated that the wrong information had been provided by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

On the 1st May 2009 my second FOI request was submitted to the DCLG. They responded on he 3rd June 2009 and stated that the wrong information had been provided by the Local Government Ombudsman.

On the 3rd June 2009 my third FOI request was submitted to the LGO. They responded on the 26th June 2009 and stated that they had supplied documents to the DCLG during May 2008 showing that during 2007/8 they didn't have a 100% compliance rate. (Conveniently ignoring the fact that Nigel Karney, a senior member of their staff, had, during November 2008, sent an email response to the DCLG wrongly confirming that the LGO had a 100% compliance rate for the period 2007/8.)
On the 26th June 2009 my fourth FOI request was submitted to the DCLG. They responded on the 16th July and stated that Mr Nigel Karney, Deputy Chief Executive & Secretary of the Commission for Local Administration in England had, in an email of the 11th November 2008, confirmed that the LGO’s compliance rate was 100%.

On the 16th July 2009 my Fifth FOI request was submitted to the LGO but just after I had submitted it I received a belated supplementary response from the LGO to my third FOI request. In this response they attach a copy of the email that they had previously overlooked proving that Mr Nigel Karney, Deputy Chief Executive & Secretary of the Commission for Local Administration in England had responded to the DCLG and confirmed that their compliance rates were 100%.
The email and response in question

*********************************************************************************
Email from Stephen McAllister DCLG to Nigel Karney CLAE, 11 November 2008 11:49 AM [Refer to appendix 5 at the end for more information]

Nigel,

I'm drafting a response to a number 10 e petition requesting that the Ombudsman's recommendations for authorities be binding.

[Paragraph not related to the % omitted]

I believe that the compliance rate with recommendations was 100% in 2006-2007.
Do you have a figure for what it was in 2007-2008? [my emphasis]

Regards, Steve McAllister

Response from Nigel Karney, November 11, 2008 5:23 PM
Stephen

The compliance rate in 2007/08 was also 100%. [my emphasis]

[Paragraphs not related to the % omitted]

Regards, Nigel

*********************************************************************************
Summary
After nearly 4 months, and five FOI requests I manage to track down the culprit who was responsible for the wrong and misleading response by the Prime Minister's office to Wilma Wright’s petition. The culprit was Nigel Karney Deputy Chief Executive & Secretary of the Commission for Local Administration in England.

He told the DCLG that the LGO's compliance rate for 2007/8 was 100% when it wasn't!

Appendix 1: Trafford Council also wrote to the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE), the official name of the three English Local Government Ombudsmen, and demanded that in future another Ombudsman should investigate complaints about Trafford Council. The CLAE agreed and the Coventry Ombudsman took over the responsibility for investigating complaints against Trafford Council.

Appendix 2: The public are not generally aware that councils are free to ignore Local Government Ombudsmen with impunity. However, more Councils ignore Mrs Seex than any other Local Government Ombudsman.

Appendix 3: Mrs Wright’s case is not an isolated incidence. Over the last 10 years a significant number of Councils have failed to provide the remedy recommended by a Local Government Ombudsman. Unfortunately the LGO utilise a number of tactics to reduce the true level of non compliance ever becoming public knowledge. The most commonly used tactic is when they state they are satisfied with a remedy even when a much lesser remedy (or on occasions none at all) has been provided. Another is when they renegotiate the remedy with the Council making it easier for a Council to comply.

Appendix 4: This rather proves that Number 10 cannot be bothered to read petitions properly before responding to them.

Appendix 5: Note that Stephen McAllister was asking for information from the LGO 3days after Wilma Wrights petition had closed yet it took until the 27th March 2009 for the Prime Ministers office to respond to her petition.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back with a vengeance!

After a few health problems and a holiday I am now back with a vengeance and normal service will be resumed very shortly.

In the next few days I will be publishing

1) the conclusion to my attempt to identify the person or persons who lied about the LGO's compliance rates.

2) the conclusion to my attempt to identify the number of times the LGO has ever brought to the attention of a council the fact that one of their staff had lied to, or misled them.

3) an irrefutable example of an Ombudsman ignoring the fact that a council solicitor had lied to them.

If you have not done so already please can I remind you to sign Graham Crane's petition to get rid of the LGO. Sign it here.