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.

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