Saturday, August 28, 2010

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment