Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scottish Public Service Ombudsman Petition

I and many others no longer support petitions sent to the discredited Number 10 petition website because they have been known to remove names from petitions without keeping a record of who was removed or for what reason. However, they have a different system in Scotland which at the moment has not been discredited so I still support Scottish petitions.

Public audit of annual expenditure by the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman

Read the background to the petition    Sign the petition    Add your comments

Please note: The petition closes on the 25th August 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

LGO spin: What lies beneath

On the about us page of the Local Government Ombudsman's website they give a few key 'facts' about the Ombudsmen. However, you need to take everything they say with a pinch of salt. Below is their list of 'facts' in black together with further information in blue. Information they would prefer remained unpublished.

About us: Key facts about the Ombudsmen

  • There are three Local Government Ombudsmen in England.
There are three ex council officers acting as  'faux' Local Government Ombudsmen in England. See my earlier posts.
  • We make our decisions independently of all government departments, councils and politicians.
All three Local Government Ombudsmen and the majority of their staff are ex council. The majority of the rest are ex government departments.  In addition there is evidence that they are told what their decisions should be. Here is an  example. There is also further evidence which proves that Local Government Ombudsmen will also change their decision over a recommended remedy should the council decide differently. Here is an example.
  • We examine complaints without taking sides. We are not consumer champions.
A 'citizen's champion' was the original definition of an Ombudsman and was the reason why they were introduced in the first place. They used to level the playing field between an individual citizen and a large public authority. By remaining neutral the Local Government Ombudsmen are ignoring the inherent bias against the individual which the original Ombudsman was introduced to overcome. 

["If, like Local Government Ombudsmen, you remain impartial in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are impartial, the mouse will not appreciate your impartiality."]
  • We are appointed by Her Majesty the Queen. 
True but only done to give the impression of independence from Local and National Government. In reality a Government Department, also responsible for Local Government, select the Ombudsman and tell the Queen to rubber stamp the appointment. Why do you think every new Local Government Ombudsman recruited since 1995 is ex council. The last thing the Government Department responsible for Local Government want is an effective Ombudsman.
  • We have the same powers as the High Court to obtain information and documents.
This is true but a power they rarely if ever use to obtain evidence a council don't want to give them.
  • Our decisions are final and cannot be appealed. However, you can challenge them in the High Court if you think our reasoning has a legal flaw.
True but that doesn't worry a council because they can ignore anything the Local Government Ombudsman recommends. Although you can challenge them in the high court by way of a judicial review this is restricted to legal flaws. If, as often happens, the Local Government Ombudsman wants to stuff you they just manipulate the facts rather than the law. You could appeal a finding of fact but as the Local Government Ombudsmen rightly state you cannot appeal one of their decisions. Neat or what!
  • We do not have to investigate every complaint received, even if we have the power to do so. For example, we may decide not to investigate if we think the problem you mention would have affected you only slightly. 
True and one of the most devious ways a Local Government Ombudsman has for burying a complaint for a council. They have the statutory discretion over their decision whether to investigate a complaint or not. Making it very difficult if not impossible to overturn by way of a judicial review. 
  • We are committed to providing a fair service and spending public money effectively.
This is just nonsense. Last year it cost them some £1,353 of tax payers money to determine every single complaint (within their remit to determine). Whilst the average compensation recommended for the small number of those complainants lucky enough to obtain a positive outcome was £750. In addition as I have previously stated councils often refuse to provide the recommended remedy so the figure of £750 will in reality be much less. How is that fair and an effective use of public money? Furthermore, I note from reading Freedom of Information request submitted to the Local Government Ombudsman that there are questions being asked about tax payer funded trips to Australia and Canada at public expense. Finally is it fair is councils can change Ombudsmen if they don't like the outcome but complainants can't or that councils can ignore the Ombudsman with impunity?
  • We do not charge for using our service.
True but there is a reason, nobody would use them. Especially when you realise that you only have about a 20% chance of getting an average of about £750 compensation but the cost would be £1,353 whether you are one of the lucky ones or not. Not exactly good odds or value for money by any stretch of the imagination. Most solicitors can obtain an average of about £5,000 compensation, some 7 times more than the LGO.  In this world you get what you pay for, Local Government Ombudsmen are free for one reason and one reason only, they are what could colloquially best be described as crap.
  • When we find that a council has done something wrong, we may recommend how it should put it right. Although we cannot make councils do what we recommend, they are almost always willing to act on what we say.
True that a council can ignore them with impunity but not true that councils are almost willing to act on what they say. A significant number of councils have ignored Local Government Ombudsmen over the years and the situation is getting worse.  So bad they recently resorted to manipulating their compliances statistics.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Faux Ombudsmen V Real Ombudsmen: Reason 4 Final Arbiter?

Public Sector Ombudsmen often make a big deal about being the final arbiter regarding complaints.

Taking the Local Government Ombudsman as an example, they state
  • 'Our decisions are final and cannot be appealed.' 
However, that is far from the whole truth. In reality the local authority not the Local Government Ombudsman is the final arbiter because they can and do ignore Local Government Ombudsman with impunity.

In addition many acts of maladministration are also illegal, so whilst the Local Government Ombudsman may have dealt with the none illegal aspects of a complaint, because they have no authority to determine legal rights, the complainant has recourse to the courts.
Public Service Ombudsmen: The final arbiters?
Pull the other one!

Faux Ombudsmen V Real Ombudsmen: Reason 3 Fairness

Public Sector Ombudsmen often make a big deal about offering a fair service but is the system they operate really that fair?

Take the Local Government Ombudsman for example, they state 
  • 'We are committed to providing a fair service'.
  • 'When we find that a council has done something wrong, we may recommend how it should put it right. Although we cannot make councils do what we recommend'
Hang on a moment, how can they argue their service is fair when a local authority can ignore their recommendations with impunity?

Take Wilma Wright's case as an example, she submitted a complaint about Trafford Council, the Local Government Ombudsman found Trafford Council guilty of maladministration and recommended they pay Wilma Wright £100,000 for the injustice her daughter had suffered through Trafford Council's maladministration, Trafford Council ignored the Local Government Ombudsman's recommendations with impunity. How an earth is that fair?

If Local Government Ombudsmen were committed to providing a fair service surely they would have asked the government to remove this patently unfair one sided loophole long ago.

Local Government Ombudsman: 'We are committed to providing a fair service'. 
 Pull the other one!

Faux Ombudsmen V Real Ombudsmen: Reason 2 Independence

Public Sector Ombudsmen often make a big deal about declaring their independence but are they as independent as a real Ombudsman should be?

Take the Local Government Ombudsman as an example, 
  • They are sponsored by the same government department that also has a responsibility for local government.
  • The majority of their staff are ex local government (the majority of the remainder being ex government departments)  
  • All three Ombudsmen ex local government.
Local Government Ombudsmen: Independent from local government? 
Pull the other one!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Faux Ombudsmen V Real Ombudsmen: Reason 1 Impartiality

[Wikiepedia: The origin of the word Ombudsman is found in Old Norse umbuĂ°smann and the word umbuds man, meaning representative (with the word umbud/ombud meaning proxy, that is someone who is authorized to act for someone else, a meaning it still has in the Scandinavian languages).]

A real Ombudsman by acting as a citizens champion, representative or proxy could overcome the inherent imbalance between the citizen and a public authority.

Instead of a David V Goliath scenario the citizen could count on the help of the Ombudsman to level the 'playing field' between themselves and the public authority and would not be disadvantaged by Public authorities throwing massive financial, legal and human resources into intimidating the citizen into submission.

Unfortunately when the British Government sought to introduce Ombudsmen into this country they decided not to introduce the Real Ombudsman model, preferring instead to introduce a variation, the so called impartial or Faux Ombudsman. Thus maintaining the inherent imbalance between the citizen and public authorities whilst at the same time, by calling them Ombudsmen, maintaining the false pretence that they had actually introduced a Real Ombudsman.

So whilst Ombudsmen in many other countries, those that haven't adopted the British model, still act as a citizen's champion, representative or proxy we now have Ombudsmen who proudly boasts they are impartial and don't take sides. Thus providing little if any help to the citizen when faced with a system inherently and significantly biased in favour of the public authority.

A slightly modified quote from Desmond Tutu summarises the problem regarding impartiality.

"If, like Local Government Ombudsmen, you remain impartial in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are impartial, the mouse will not appreciate your impartiality."

More to follow.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Government considers ombudsman merger

The government is considering merging the Housing Ombudsman Service with the Local Government Ombudsman.

I have just checked out the latest Housing Ombudsman statistics and their website and find they are as misleading as the LGO's when it comes to interpreting statistics and telling the full story on their website. It would appear that they both use spin, mirrors and smoke to hide the truth about their real purpose and effectiveness. Which will at least make merging these Ombudsmen much easier, two deceitful peas in one pod.

They both need to stop pretending that they are real Ombudsmen at all, let alone effective? 

They are nothing but 'faux' or pretend Ombudsmen' (similar to plastic Police). Ones who do not embrace the values of a true Ombudsmen whilst overcoming this shortcoming by manipulating  statistics, publications and information, Thus making themselves appear to be as effective as a real Ombudsman to their website visitors, complainants and tenants.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

LGO email retention policy

Has your Local Government Ombudsman's office told you that they don't keep your emails? Don't believe anything they say. Here is an example of the truth

The following blue text is a copy of a certified email tracking record regarding an email I sent to Anne Seex, Local Government Ombudsman, York office, on the 25th April 2008.

As you will see from the record below my email was first opened on the 25 April 2008. (For those unaware the LGO now use the services of efax.com in America. In addition they often use them as a proxy when visiting blogs and websites that criticise the LGO.) However, what is more interesting is the latest date my email was opened, the 15th June 2010 [Record number 7 in bold], over 2 years 2 months after sending it and first being read by Mrs Seex [Record number 3 in bold]. (Again for those unaware, the tracking record is typical of those emails opened by Mrs Seex on her personal Blackberry PDA.]

To       a.seex@lgo.org.uk     
From       trevornunn

Subject      Re: Letter from Cheshire County Council, we are still waiting.
Sent on      25-Apr-08 at 18:00:39pm 'GB' time
1st Open      25-Apr-08 at 18:31:02pm   +01:00  Massachusetts, United States

Tracking Details

 
1: Opened
Opened     25-Apr-08 at 18:31:02pm (UTC +01:00)   -   30mins 23secs after sending
Location     Massachusetts, United States
Opened on     208.51.227.178.efax.com (208.51.227.178:24896)
Language     of recipient's PC: en-gb (English/United Kingdom)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Last log     No more activity after 25-Apr-08 at 18:32:13pm (UTC +01:00)  

2: Re-Opened
Opened     25-Apr-08 at 19:03:34pm (UTC +01:00)   -   1hour 2mins 55secs after sending
Location     Massachusetts, United States
Opened on     208.51.227.178.efax.com (208.51.227.178:25420)
Language     of recipient's PC: en-gb (English/United Kingdom)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Last log     No more activity after 25-Apr-08 at 19:13:02pm (UTC +01:00)  

 
3: Forwarded
Opened     26-Apr-08 at 10:26:52am (UTC +01:00)   -   16hours 26mins 13secs after sending
Location     Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom (86% likelihood)
Opened on     88-109-223-61.dynamic.dsl.as9105.com (88.109.223.61:1106)
Language     of recipient's PC: en-gb (English/United Kingdom)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; FunWebProducts; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)


4: Re-opened (by earlier reader #1)
Opened     12-May-08 at 17:41:20pm (UTC +01:00)   -   16days23hours40mins41secs after sending
Location     Massachusetts, United States (86% likelihood)
Opened on     208.51.227.178.efax.com (208.51.227.178:43581)
Language     of recipient's PC: en-gb (English/United Kingdom)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)

5: Re-Opened (by earlier reader #1)

Opened     4-Aug-08 at 13:36:26pm (UTC +01:00)   -   100days19hours35mins47secs after sending
Location     Massachusetts, United States
Opened on     208.51.227.178.efax.com (208.51.227.178:64004)
Language     of recipient's PC: en-gb (English/United Kingdom)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)

6: Forwarded
Opened     3-Dec-09 at 19:04:02pm (UTC +01:00)   -   587 days 1hour 3mins 23secs after sending
Location     Massachusetts, United States
Opened on     208.51.227.178.efax.com (208.51.227.178:21527)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; MSOffice 12)

7: Re-Opened (by earlier reader #3)
Opened     15-Jun-10 at 20:45:12pm (UTC +01:00)   -   781days 2hours 44mins 33secs after sending
Location     Massachusetts, United States
Opened on     208.51.227.178.efax.com (208.51.227.178:26968)
Browser     used by recipient: Moz/4.0 (MSIE 6.0; WinNT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; MSOffice 12)


Summary   -   as at 23-Jun-10 at 17:45:21pm (UTC +01:00)   -   788days 23hours 44mins 42secs after sending
Total     Opened 7 times by 3 readers

What are all these Commissions good for?

It is well known that all Local Government Ombudsman offices (Collectively known as the Commission for Local Administration) are a waste of taxpayers money, fiddle their statistics and surveys to make themselves look more effective than they actually are, lie to government departments, the law commission, complainants, and others, bury complaints for local government and do nothing to improve standards in local government.

But are the other Commissions any better? For example, why haven't the Audit Commission or the Law Commission done anything about it?

Just as the LGO let local authorities get away with serious acts of maladministration it would appear, through their failure to act, that the Audit Commission, the Law Commission and other Commissions do exactly the same for the LGO.

So if the coalition want to save money I suggest that they close all these expensive, unproductive and self protecting Commissions.

The Audit Commission are still interested

At least 9 visits in less than two months???? The latest shown below.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The power of blogs!

Who forgot to use a proxy?
Watching me watching them, ah ah. What is more interesting, however, is that the Audit Commission have visited on 8 separate occasions since the middle of May. I can only assume that they are interested in finding out how public authorities and quangos, such as the LGO, fiddle their statistics to make themselves appear better value for taxpayers money than they actually are.

What is needed is a full independent audit of the Local Government Ombudsman's statistics and performance. Not the manipulated statistics and self promoting spin we normally get in their annual reports.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The ways in which the LGO fiddle their statistics [Example 1]

How the LGO fiddle their compliance statistics.

On the 3rd June 2010 a Mr Stuart Hardcastle submitted a Freedom of Information request regarding the published compliance rates of the LGO.

The LGO responded on the 11th June 2010.

The statistics supplied in response to the FOI request show a significant drop in second and further reports being issued from 1997.

There are two reasons why their compliance rates could be as good as the LGO suggest,
  • they are telling the truth.
  • they fiddle their statistics.
The objective of this post is to highlight the fact that the LGO have been manipulating  their statistics over the last 15 years or so in an attempt to hide the truth about their effectiveness.

I can do this because I submitted a complaint during 1997 and the LGO found in my favour in 1998.

However, the council failed to comply with the recommendations in the LGO's first report. When I brought this to the attention of the LGO during 1999, Pat Thomas, the then Ombudsman, stated she was satisfied with what they had done, (which was nothing as later evidence proves,) and terminated any further involvement without producing a second report due to none compliance.

This simple con trick is just one example of how the LGO fiddle their statistics when it comes to their compliance rates. The rules state that a second report can be issued if the LGO is not satisfied with the council's actions. All the devious LGO have to do, even if the council have done nothing, is to state they are satisfied and hey presto, no need for a second report! With no bad press about their poor compliance rates or the fact that councils often ignore them with impunity..

Footnote: The councils failure to comply with the recommendation's of the LGO forced me to submit a second complaint about their none compliance during 2002. Logic dictates that this would not have been possible if the council had complied with the recommendations of the LGO during 1999.

Many more examples to follow but an earlier post also gives an example of how they even misled a government department about their compliance rates. As if fiddling their statistics over the last 15 years wasn't enough!

It would appear that they have also misled the Law Commission regarding their true compliance rates.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Brent, Freedom of Information, Copyright and What Do They Know

A must read (PDF Decision notice against the House of Commons) for those wanting Brent Council to respond to their FOI requests via the What Do They Know website.

Summary of the decision notice

The complainant made a request for information to the House of Commons via his account on the www.whatdotheyknow.com website. He requested a copy of a document, to be provided in electronic form. The public authority expressed its willingness to provide the information to the complainant by way of an  alternative email address, however claimed that it would not be reasonably practicable for it to provide the information to the email address generated by the website, as to do so would raise copyright implications as the information provided to that address would be automatically published on the website. The Commissioner has investigated and considers that the public authority should provide the requested information to the complainant to the Whatdotheyknow.com email address that was used to make the request.

My request was to ascertain how many Local Government Act Part III Section 32(3) notices had Brent council served on a Local Government Ombudsman and how many times has the Ombudsman concerned found the council guilty of maladministration for misusing a Section 32(3) notice. As in the recent decision notice Brent replied by stating

'Your request has been validated and will be responded to. However, whilst we may send the formal notification of the decision to the email address you have provided we will not send the information requested to that address. This is because we are aware that doing so will automatically result in the information being published on the whatdotheyknow website. Publication of information in this way may constitute an unauthorised re-use (under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005) and may infringe copyright. I would therefore be grateful if you will provide me with an alternative disclosure address. This can be a postal address, fax number or an email address, as long as it does not result in automatic publication and re-use.'

Later confirming

'Further to our earlier correspondence I am writing to advise that the Council is in a position to provide information in response to your request on being provided with the alternative address for correspondence requested.'

So the latest ruling against the House of Commons makes Brent's position, as far as their refusal to respond via the What Do They Know website, untenable.