Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Local Government Ombudsman and their seven pillars of injustice

Now updated: Once you have read this post please read the twelve pillars of injustice!

This post is a continuation of my previous post

Can you imagine a judge helping a defendant avoid the charges or even being too incompetent to understand the issues? It could happen but very rarely does because of seven key elements.

The seven pillars of justice.

(1) Court proceedings are held in public,
(2) either side can appeal a judgement on a finding of fact,
(3) the judge is qualified, 
(4) a judge can't delegate their job to a junior member of staff, 
(5) all evidence is shown to both sides,
(6) a judge can't talk to one side without the other side being present,
(7) any out of court settlement is agreed between the two parties. The judge plays no part.

Therefore, if a court was run in the way an LGO's office is run it would be exposed very quickly as a ludicrously unfair, unjust and corrupt system of administrative justice.

Luckily for Councils the LGO use their own unjust and perverse system

The seven pillars of LGO injustice.

(1) They work in private,  
(2) you can't appeal their findings of fact,
(3) they don't have to be qualified for the job, (current examples 1 2 3 older example 4) 
(4) they can, and indeed do, delegate their job to a junior member of staff no matter how unqualified or incompetent,
(5) they don't have to show all the evidence to the complainant and they usually don't [See A below],
(6) they can and often do talk to the council without the complainant being aware any discussion took place [See B below],
(7) they settle the complaint with the council. A complainant can't refuse such a settlement [See C below].

Making it much easier for them to bury their devious and underhand tactics or incompetence. Together with most of the maladministration their friends and ex colleagues in local government are guilty of.

In addition, as far as the culture of the organisation is concerned, their staff have been known to lie to complainants, fabricate documents, and illegally initiate complaints with apparent impunity.

As a result they have the means the motive and the power, should they wish to use it (and they often do as their own statistics prove), to help their ex colleagues in local government out of  any complaint of maladministration leading to injustice they want.

Essentially they work in a similar fashion to the old court of star chamber but whilst that was set up to protect the Monarchy the modern day LGO were set up to protect local government.

For more about Court's of Star Chamber please read my earlier post.

[A] We now have such an unjust system of administrative justice that complaints have to rely on the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to obtain documents and evidence on which the LGO base their decisions on, one example here.

[B] This has been proven time and time again. The LGO often ring up the council, without the knowledge of the complainant, and agree not to investigate the complaints based on the one sided and unverified assertions of the council. This happened in the Bachin's case some 20 years ago, mine some 8 years ago and is still happening today.

[C] Local settlements are nothing more than a con trick, a devious attempt to deceive the public, because they are not agreed locally and they don't settle a complaint. All they are is an agreement between the Local Government Ombudsman and a Council to stop investigating the complaint should the Council agree to apologise or pay the complainant a paltry sum of money. Basically they allow a Council to buy off a proper and full investigation for an average payment of £534.

The LGO don't usually to tell a complainant that, following their imposition of a local settlement,  a complainant is still free to seek legal redress against the Council for any legal wrongdoing. All the LGO determine or locally settle is simple (none illegal [See an explanation of maladministration below]) maladministration and cannot  determine any legal issues,  Thus all complainants, who have had their complaint locally settled by the LGO, should seek legal advice to see if the Council also broke any laws or statutory obligations and if they did ask their solicitor to take legal action against the Council. All least they dispense proper justice.

Maladministration: The term maladministration can be deceptive because the term can be applied to everything a public authority does wrong, however, the LGO cannot determine any legal issues, only a court can do that. Thus Local Government Ombudsmen can't determine all maladministration, even if they would like you to believe the can. 

Therefore, it is paramount that complainants differentiate between legal maladministration and illegal maladministration. Whilst all illegal acts by a public authority are maladministration, not all acts of maladministration are illegal.

LGO: Devious and underhand tactics or just plain incompetence?

Like to know some of the underhand and devious tactics Local Government Ombudsmen use to help their ex colleagues and friends in Local Authorities escape the consequences of maladministration. Here are three I have personally experienced.

The first was used by Mrs Pat Thomas, the Local Government Ombudsman who, at the time of my first complaint (1997), was in charge of the York office. They just ignored one of my complaints altogether,  the second of three which was about the Council bodging the road to extracted themselves from their self created difficulties.

A devious little tactic that's often effective, as many complainants will testify.

[Rather than ignoring a complaint altogether, a more common and subtle variation is for the LGO to rewrite or interpret the complaint in a way which makes it easier for a council to defend.]

However, in my case her efforts backfired spectacularly, even though she thought she had provided them with an escape route, bodge the road, they couldn't do so because they didn't have the legal authority. The Council were in a catch 22 situation (a logical paradox), which they and Pat Thomas had clearly failed to appreciate at the time.

Although as highway authority they could technically bodge a highway, the road in question, at the material time, was not a highway. It would only become a highway when a Stage 2 certificate of completion had been issued. And the written condition stated that this would only happen when the road had been completed to the planned and bonded standards. In essence they couldn't use Pat Thomas' escape route until the road was completed to standard, and if it was, there would be no need to bodge the road.

That's why they didn't attempt to do so for some 9 years. Until of course the York office now under the control of Anne Seex, wrongly found in 2008 that the Council, as highway authority, did have the legal right to bodge a road, (which at the material time of my complaint was not a highway), in order to turn it into a highway.

Essentially by putting the cart before the horse, in order to overcome the catch 22 situation, Mrs Seex' office had found a devious way for the Council to extricate themselves from their self created difficulties. However, in doing so, they just provided further evidence of the lengths they will go to in order to extricate a council from their self created difficulties. Which was one of my objectives in forcing them to investigate my second complaint.

[Other variations on this destroy the basis of the complaint theme include, written policy being interpreted as a mere guidance  note, facts and law in favour of the complainant ignored altogether or dismissed as irrelevant, irrelevant facts or law in favour of the council introduced as relevant and the introduction of delay until the Council have had the time to move the goal posts. (This devious delay tactic was also used with my second complaint, the LGO refusing to investigate my 2002 for 4 years until the council had managed to move the goal posts.)]

Three simple examples of how a Local Government Ombudsman office will do their level best to extricate local authorities (and themselves) from the consequences of  maladministration. The LGO's only defence would be to argue that the staff in the York office are not devious and underhand they are merely incompetent. And having had dealings with a number of them in the York office, I certainly think there is more than a little merit in that defence. :) 

Although based on personal experience, it is my humble opinion that all three can, in different degrees and at various times, be used to describe the York Office. Now if you think that's bad there is much worse to come, see my next post.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spending Challenge: Another update on getting rid of the LGO

Further to my earlier update regarding the Government's spending challenge and my original post on the subject I can report that the site is now live once again allowing the public to rate suggestions.

The following are a few examples regarding the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). Please rate them now, the more people who vote the more chance we have of the Government taking a suggestion seriously. Please note, I know of a couple that appear to have been merged some that have been edited and at least one that has not been published, I hope they don't tinker with this website as they did with their now discredited petition website.  

Unfortunately it already looks like they are up to their old tricks. Having been off-line for so long they are now giving people only a few days, until the end of August, in which to rate/vote for an idea. In addition the last couple of weeks in August are traditionally the most popular weeks to go on holiday or prepare for the new school term. Plus we have the Bank Holiday Weekend! Is anyone else suspicious of the timing? It looks like they don't really want people rating suggestions.

Local Government Ombudsman office is a sham and irrational waste of very limited funds

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO)  office is  a very costly   financial burden which  we cannot afford or justify the existence of. After more than ten years of dealing with the LGO office , I have reached the conclusion that it is everything that it is not supposed to be ( ie ineffectual, unaccountable,  unjust, unhelpful, secretive, out-dated and biased against complainants).....more....

Close down the LGO

The Government could close down the LGO, give every single complainant, not just the lucky 23.6%, £1000 and still save the taxpayer over £7.1 million pounds.....more....

Revolutionise or preferably abolish the LGO

Revolutionise - or preferably abolish - the LGO, Local Government Ombudsman. It is currently a waste of money, time and effort....more....

Get rid of the LGO

Get rid of the Local Gov Ombudsman. They are simply Local Gov Defence Counsel....more....

Get rid of the LGO (2)

Get rid of the Local Government Ombudsman. It cost a fortune. Does very little (as records prove) for complainants as it comprises of ex high ranking Council staff....more....

Get rid of the Local Government Ombudsman

 Get rid of the Local Government Ombudsman. It is a toothless tiger and costs far more to run than it gets back for electors. They are poor at investigation....more....

Abolish the Local Government Ombudsman

Abolish the Local Government Ombudsman (costing over 16m pa) and replace with an organisation which is truly impartial, not full of ex local council employees with a strong bias to bury council maladministration.....more....
Scrap the discredited Local Government Ombudsman

Scrap the discredited Local Government Ombudsman and replace them with an independent tribunal. The Government is wasting vast sums of money on a system of administrative justice that does not work....more..... 

The Office of the Local Government Ombudsman should be closed

The Offiice of the Local Government Ombudsman should be closed as the number of complaints that are actually investigated and brought to a satisfactory conclusion is so few that the operation is not worth the money to run it....more....

Abolish or reform the ombudsmen systems

They were set up, with the best intentions of politicians, by civil servants and local government bureaucrats. They set them up to be powerless, and, staffed and manned, on the whole by Insiders.....more....

Local Government Ombudsman

The York Local Government Ombudsman is like a holiday home for civil servants.  The live in total luxury along with their own gardens and tennis court.....more....

Local Government Ombudsman (2)

The local government ombudsman service costs around £20m per year but in the main its retired LG officers.......more...

Friday, August 13, 2010

What's good for the Audit Commission is good for the Commission for Local Administration in England. Get rid of them now!

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles:   'The corporate centre of the Audit Commission has lost its way. Rather than being a watchdog that champions taxpayers' interests, it has become the creature of the Whitehall state.'

Whilst, for the present, appearing to ignore the fact that the Commission for Local Administration in England (The Local Government Ombudsmen) is in exactly the same position regarding local taxpayer's interests.

They lost their way in 1995 when they started to recruit Ombudsmen and staff from Local Government. So much so that they have become a creature of Local Government and no longer act as an effective watchdog that champions local taxpayer's interests.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More information about Local? Settlements

In a recent FOI request to Torbay Council I asked

"In your recent Local Government annual review it states that the Local Government Ombudsman locally settled 4 complaints with Torbay Council. 

As you are aware a local settlement is agreed between the Local Government Ombudsman's office and the Council. The complainant cannot refuse any settlement agreed between the two said public authorities.

In all 4 cases I would like any and all information you hold about the negotiations behind the settlements of these cases together with the job title of the LGO staff and Council staff involved in the negotiations."

In their response they state

"Torbay Council did not negotiate with the Local Government Ombudsman with regards to the settlements on these cases. All settlements suggested by the LGO were accepted by the Council." [my emphasis]

So the question remains. If the LGO set the level of compensation (in this case from an office in Coventry), the council (in this case Torbay in Devon) agree, how the hell does the LGO get away with calling it a local settlement? Especially since the complainant cannot refuse the settlement.