Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stewart Jackson's question about the Local Government Ombudsman

On the 25th March Stewart Jackson, the Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, received a written answer to a question he put to Rosie Winterton the Minister of State for Communities and Local Government.

Stewart Jackson To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many complaints have been (a) submitted to and (b) upheld by in whole or in part the Local Government Ombudsman in each year since 1996?

Rosie Winterton The following table shows the number of complaints submitted each year and the number of complaints in each year on which either a local settlement was reached or the Ombudsman issued a report finding maladministration. Complaints submitted Complaint settled locally or reported on by Ombudsman.

Whilst Rosie Winterton correctly answered part (a) of his question,  how many complaints have been submitted to the Local Government Ombudsman in each year since 1996, her answer to part (b) of his question, how many have been upheld in whole or in part the Local Government Ombudsman in each year since 1996 is very misleading.

Until recently a local settlement could not be considered as the Local Government Ombudsman upholding a complaint, if the Local Government Ombudsman identified maladministration they were obliged by law to issue a formal report. Therefore the only complaints that could be considered as upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman were those in which they published a formal report saying so.

The Local Government Ombudsmen invented local settlements years ago as a way of avoiding having to find a public authority guilty of maladministration for a number of reasons. (a) It saved them the time and effort of having to conduct a proper investigation and produce a formal report. (b) It gave them a carrot with which to dangle before the public authority, 'settle the case locally before we complete the investigation and you can bury a finding of maladministration' on the cheap. (c) It allowed the public authority concerned to boast that the Local Government Ombudsman had not upheld a complaint of maladministration against them. The only loser was the complainant.

It is important to realise that Local Settlements are agreed between the Local Government Ombudsman and the public authority concerned the complainant has no say in the matter.

NOTE: The  Government recently legalised local settlements because it had become obvious to all they were an unlawful invention of the Local Government Ombudsman.  

Below are the misleading figures given by Rosie Winterton, I have added the figures in red  to show the true answer together with a percentage.

   Year           CS        LS      True number upheld

1996-97 ~ 15,322 ~ 2,752 
1997-98 ~ 14,969 ~ 2,694 
1998-99 ~ 15,869 ~ 2,624 ~  
92 = 0.58%
1999-00 ~ 17,555 ~ 3,060 ~ 125 = 0.71%
2000-01 ~ 19,179 ~ 3,945 ~   93 = 0.48%
2001-02 ~ 18,309 ~ 4,331 ~ 149 = 0.81%
2002-03 ~ 17,610 ~ 3,857 ~ 171 = 0.97%
2003-04 ~ 18,982 ~ 3,363 ~ 195 = 1.02%
2004-05 ~ 18,698 ~ 3,042 ~ 136
= 0.73%
2005-06 ~ 18,626 ~ 2,962 ~ 150 = 0.80%
2006-07 ~ 18,320 ~ 3,088 ~ 215 = 1.17%

2007-08 ~ 17,628 ~ 3,057 ~ 303 = 1.72%
2008-09 ~ 21,012 ~ 2,885 ~ 137 = 0.65%

Over the 11 years worth of figures I have added in red your chance of getting the Local Government Ombudsman to uphold your complaint and publish a formal report finding your council guilty of maladministration averages 0.875%, or to put that in perspective 1 chance in 114.

One must also take into account that many public authorities ignore the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman.  Therefore, your chance of obtaining both a formal report finding maladministration and the recommended remedy are less than 1 in a 100.

One must also take into account the variation between the Local Government Ombudsman offices. The York office is much worse than the other two as far as the number of complaints upheld and the number of councils who ignore them. Unfortunately that means for complainants who are forced to use the York office your chance of obtaining a formal report finding maladministration and the recommended remedy are less than 1 in 500.

Unfortunately that's not the end of the matter because the Local Government Ombudsman often uphold a minor part of your complaint to deflect attention away from the fact that they have buried the more serious parts of your complaint. Therefore, the chances of you obtaining a finding of maladministration for the substantive part of you complaint is practically none existent.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

York Local Government Ombudsman office again!

Another complainant dissatisfied with the York office of the Local Government Ombudsman has started a new blog on which to publish their experience. I have extracted some quotes that parallel my experience below. To visit their blog and read their full story click here.

"If I had known what I know now I wouldn’t have even bothered to put in a complaint about the social workers who abused my family. The process is so traumatic and the end result is nil even though findings of maladministration were found."

Which matches my own experience, for I too, knowing what I know now, wouldn't have bothered to put in a complaint about my council. The process was traumatic and the end result was nil even though findings of maladministration were found in both my 1997 and 2002 complaints.

"The obvious concern was that minor complaints might be upheld whilst more serious complaints would be whitewashed."

This again matched my own fears, which eventually turned out to be well founded. Both in my 1997 and 2002 complaints about serious maladministration were overlooked whilst only complaints about minor maladministration were upheld.

"I found the LGO’s dismissal of such obvious corruption very disconcerting and already I began to worry about their impartiality."

I too found the LGO's dismissal of obvious corruption very disconcerting and have always doubted their impartiality.

"The council had written to the LGO with a muck raking summary of myself."

Again, in my case, the council told the LGO blatant lies but on no occasion did the LGO castigate the council for doing so, even though I presented evidence of their lies. As one example but there are many more, during 2002 a council officer lied to an assistant ombudsman, as a result of that lie the LGO refused to investigate my complaint. During 2006 I managed to persuade the LGO to comeback on my complaint based on the fact that a council officer had misled them by lying. They eventually found the council guilty of maladministration for the delay but failed to castigate the council or the officer for misleading the assistant ombudsman in 2002 whose lie caused the delay in the first place.

"She told me that I did have a serious complaint."

I was also told I had a serious complaint in the beginning but during the process they manipulated every complaint but the most trivial until they found in favour of the council.

"Indeed I was criticised by another investigator"

I was also criticised by an investigator in a very unprofessional manner all because of a short delay in one of my responses due to long term heath issues. (I am diabetic and have suffered from high blood pressure for nearly 40 years.)

"I find dealing out these paltry amounts of money for very corrupt services is insulting. It achieves nothing."

After two complaints to the LGO spread over 11 years with two findings of maladministration all I have received is a total of £1000 which would not even pay for the stationery and postage involved in my attempts to obtain justice.

"None of the workers in the complaints process are investigated and the independent investigators can continue to whitewash complaints."

I have since proven through Freedom of information requests and experience that council officers can and do lie to the LGO with impunity. An assistant ombudsman is on record stating that the Ombudsman prefers to investigate complaints about a council rather than individual council officers, even though council maladministration can only be caused by council officers. In many cases this allows the council officers who caused the maladministration in the first place to pervert the course of justice and stop it being identified as such by the Ombudsman.

"People on the internet seemed to have the same struggles as myself."

I also found people on the internet had the same struggles as myself.

"Another person at the LGO office said I could put in a complaint about the way the LGO had handled my complaint,"

I also submitted an internal complaint about the way my complaint had been handled by the LGO and found the whole process more biased and corrupt than anything else I had faced. All the Deputy Ombudsman did was agree with their own staff even though in doing so they had to use fallacious argument to defend the indefensible making themselves look like idiots at the same time.

"He then said that main social worker did not work at the council any more."

I was also told that one of the officers involved with my complaint no longer worked for the council but later found that this was a lie. When I investigated myself I found he still worked for the council. They argued that he had just been rehired. Which was yet another lie because he had never left the council all they had done is transfer him to another department.

"But the LGO said they were satisfied with the councils actions."

Following the finding of maladministration into my first complaint the council did not comply with the Ombudsman's recommendations. However, in full knowledge of that fact, instead of issuing a second report, the Ombudsman just stated that she was satisfied with the council's actions and closed the case.

Some 5 years later this none compliance led to my second complaint which interestingly highlights a devious tactic used by the LGO. Instead of recording none compliance with their recommendations they just write to the complainant stating that they are satisfied with the council's actions (even if the council have not complied with their recommendations) and close the case. Leaving the complainant with no alternative but to submit a second complaint about none compliance some years later. This allows the LGO to brag about their high compliance rates even though the reality of the situation is quite different. It also alows the LGO to deviously multiple count complaints to further enhance their statistics.

What the new blogger illustrates is that the LGO still use the same devious tricks to pull the wool over people's eyes, manipulate statistics and bury serious complaints of maladministration for the friends and ex colleagues in local authorities.

With one negative story the LGO will tremble with a hundred negative stories the LGO will collapse.