Friday, October 22, 2010

Local Government Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill

"Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Peter Bone, Philip Davies, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mr David Nuttall, Mr Greg Knight and Priti Patel, presented a Bill to extend the powers of the Local Government Ombudsman to provide redress against local authorities which unreasonably ban events on the grounds of health and safety.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March 2011, and to be printed (Bill 86)."

About the same time Tony Redmond's replacement starts. See the previous post.

One of many new changes regarding the LGO expected over the next few months. New Chair (Commission for Local Administration), new LGO, new understanding of the risks, Law Commission Review of Public Service Ombudsmen filtering through? 

Is March 2011 when they start to clean up the discredited LGO? Or is this another smoke and mirrors exercise by the Department of Communities and Local Government to give people the impression that things will change for the better when in reality they are going to stay the same. Or heaven forbid, change for the worse?

An effective system of administrative justice costs money, continuing to sweep the problems with Local Government under the carpet, by throwing a few million pounds at an ineffective system of administrative justice (the LGO), is a much cheaper alternative for Eric Pickles and the DCLG.

What a unique position Eric Pickles is in, as Secretary of State for Local Government, does he continue to protect Local Government by retaining an ineffective system of administrative justice or does he improve the system of administrative justice and expose the problems within Local Government? 

We will get the answer to that question next March when the new Chair of the Commission for Local Administration and LGO is recruited by the same department responsible for Local Government. LGO independent of Local Government?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Advert for Tony Redmond's replacement

An outstanding opportunity exists to lead the further development of the Local Government Ombudsman service in England. 'We are looking for a person of the highest calibre with a significant track record of achievement to fill the role of Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England and Local Government Ombudsman.
The Commission comprises three Local Government Ombudsmen and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The successful applicant will have responsibility for investigating alleged maladministration and service failure by local authorities and certain other public bodies. The Local Government Ombudsman’s jurisdiction has also recently been expanded to adult social care self funders.

As Chair and Local Government Ombudsman you will also have a key role in overseeing and directing the Commission’s Public Value strategy. Much of this activity focuses on improving local authority service provision and developing sound complaints handling arrangements. As Chair you will also play a leading role in advising the Commission in the development and implementation of the strategic and corporate planning for the organisation.

This high profile role demands strong leadership skills and the highest standards of integrity and sound judgement. Candidates must demonstrate high intellectual capacity and an ability to assimilate complex information.'

In the final candidate pack it states 'Tony Redmond leaves office on 11 November 2010, and his successor is now sought. It is aimed to appoint a new Ombudsman by the end of March 2011.' This is the second time they have not recruited a replacement Ombudsman until well after their predecessor left.  Whilst during 2005 they recruited Anne Seex well before Pat Thomas left so she could learn the ropes this didn't happen when Jerry White left last year. Dr Jane Martin didn't start until well after he left. The same now appears to apply to Tony Redmond, his replacement not starting for nearly five months after he leaves.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Local Government Ombudsmen: Bailing out?

Since the summer of 2005 three Local Government Ombudsmen have bailed out, Pat Thomas 2005, Jerry White 2009 and Tony Redmond 2010. In addition Peter MacMahon the Deputy Ombudsman based in London also went in April 2010. Plus of course 10% of the Commission's total staff.

However, what is even more interesting is that Jerry White (LGO Coventry Office) was also Vice Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE) and Tony Redmond (LGO London) is Chair of the CLAE yet both will have bailed out within months of each other. What do they know we and the other LGOs don't?

This means, God help all complainants, that the most experienced Local Government Ombudsman is going to be Anne Seex. For complainants who haven't any experience of Anne Seex, she is the LGO who currently reports the least maladministration yet has the most councils ignoring her recommendations. In addition she probably has the largest number of complainants dissatisfied with her office than any other Ombudsman in the world.

Thomas served 20 years, White 14 and Redmond 9 so it looks like the length of time they can stomach stuffing complainants has been reducing significantly. Particularly from 2003/4 when their antics started to be exposed by LGO Watch and additionally from 2006 by Public Service Ombudsman Watchers.

Records prove that every new Ombudsman has identified less and less maladministration. Anne Seex (2005) reports less maladministration than Redmond (2001) who both reported less maladministration than White (1995). This theory can be put to the test when Jane Martin, the newbie, has served a complete reporting year. If the theory is correct she will report even less maladministration than Anne Seex, which is going to be nigh on impossible task for Jane Martin to do because Anne Seex reports way less than 1% of submitted complaints as maladministration. During a period in 2008 it fell to an all time  record low of 0.1%.

The number of complainants LGOs stuff also appears inversely proportional to the length of time they can stomach doing their job. A theory which can be put to the test when Anne Seex decides to bail out.

My conclusion is that Jerry White and Tony Redmond were smart enough to bail out before the CLAE/LGO crashes and burns leaving the inexperienced Mmes Seex and Martin and Tony Redmond's replacement to take the fall.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Commission for Local Administration in England is not fit for purpose!

FOI identifies that the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE) better known as the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) is not fit for purpose!  

'FOI Act shines a torch on public services, says Information Commissioner.' “Freedom of Information has a key role to play in helping to deliver greater transparency and accountability. These are key priorities in public policy”, says Information Commissioner Christopher Graham in a message to mark International Right to Know Day".

From a number of FOI requests to Commission for Local Administration in England (The Local Government Ombudsmen) over the last couple of years one can see that their faults are not just limited to their inability to carry out fair, just and above board investigations.

I have already commented on what's wrong with the culture of the organisation and what's wrong with the system they operate so with this post I want to concentrates on what the FOI Act 'torch' has illuminated as far as corporate faults are concerned.

These are some of the failures that FOI requests have confirmed the CLAE/LGO are guilty of
  • Failure to keep adequate records
  • Failure to maintain adequate audit trails
  • Failure to scrutinise expense claims
  • Failure to scrutinise proposals
  • Failure to follow their code of conduct
  • Failure to provide information
  • Failure to discipline staff for mistakes or wrongdoing
  • Failure to protect personal data
  • Failure to meet statutory deadlines
FOI has also exposed the CLAE/LGO for
  • Fabricating records from memory years after the event
  • Playing silly semantic games to delay/avoid requests for copies of documents
  • Making up policy on the fly
As far as I am concerned if they can't keep their own house in order what chance have they of keeping other public authorities in order? They are not exactly setting an example of how to run public organisation as they should be be doing.
  • The system they operate is not fit for purpose, 
  • the culture they have cultivated is not fit for purpose
  • and their corporate management is not fit for purpose.
Any one would have brought a private company to it's knees. Luckily for the CLAE/LGO it's business as usual because they are totally unaccountable and funded by the taxpayer. How fortunate for them.