Friday, December 24, 2010

The Local Government Ombudsman and their eighth pillar of injustice

Further to my previous post regarding the Local Government Ombudsman and their seven pillars of injusticeOver the last few weeks I have identified another two pillars of injustice which should be added to the list. Here is the first one, the ninth will be added soon.

The seven eight pillars of LGO injustice.

(1They work in private,  
(2) you can't appeal their findings of fact,
(3) they don't have to be qualified for the job.
(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.
(6) they can and often do talk to the council without the complainant being aware any discussion took place. 
(7) they settle the complaint with the council. A complainant can't refuse such a settlement.
(8) they don't have to follow previous decisions/precedents/case law.

Following previous decisions/precedentscase law would bring certainty to the outcome of a complaint. However, the LGO don't follow this common sense pillar of justice they can ignore any previous decisions or recommendations. 

If two people had similar complaints the LGO could, find for the complainant in one complaint, recommending compensation for the injustice through maladministration, whilst finding against the complainant in the second case, reporting no maladministration. 

If two people had suffered similar injustice the LGO could, find for both complainant but recommend one compensation of £1000 but the other just £5.

In essence complainants can't base the possible outcomes of their complaint on previous cases, which makes the system unjustly unpredictable and unreliable. A system which is open to abuse by the LGO and their staff because their decisions can be made arbitrarily.

A real system of justice has to follow previously decided cases or provide an explanation of how the case under consideration is different from previously decided cases. Accordingly a real system of justice provides a much greater degree of certainty to all the parties involved by putting limits on the judge's freedom to deviate from the norm.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Data Protection: LGO V ICO

Contrast the discredited LGO with the ICO when both faced with complaints about a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.

In the first case the LGO recommended the paltry sum of £300 (per complainant) as compensation for a Data Protection breach, however, because councils can, and often do as this case proves, ignore the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman the complainants had to take further court action against the council to secure the paltry remedy suggested by the LGO. The LGO can't fine a council and even if they could it is doubtful they would.

In the second case the ICO  fined Hertfordshire County Council £100,000 for just two breaches of the DPA.

Xmas quiz
  1. Which council will be reluctant to breach the Data Protection Act in the future, Basildon or Hertfordshire?  
  2. Which watchdog would you complain to under these circumstances?
  3. Which watchdog looks like they have no credibility? 
  4. Which watchdog should be scrapped to save taxpayers over £15million per year?
Answers: 1. Hertfordshire, 2.  The ICO, 3. The LGO, 4. The LGO

        Thursday, December 09, 2010

        Another Public Service Ombudsman bites the dust.

        Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman announces plans to retire!

        "Ann Abraham has announced today that she plans to retire as Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman towards the end of 2011.

        She has advised the Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, Bernard Jenkin, and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, of her plans and asked them to set in train the process for appointing her successor.

        Ann Abraham said:

        ‘As Ombudsman, it is a great privilege to serve both Parliament and the public by helping to put things right when public bodies have not acted properly or fairly, or have provided a poor service. My Office has a clear and busy agenda over the next twelve months, with some important work in the pipeline. We stand well equipped to deliver this while the process of appointing my successor gets underway' "

        I wonder what changed Ann Abraham's mind? Last year she told the Public Administration Select Committee that she looked forward to serving many more years as PHSO. 

        The Department of Communities and Local Government knew Tony Redmond was going to retire in November 2010 way back in 2001, yet decided not to replace him until long after he had gone. This also happened when Jerry White retired. Yet when Pat Thomas retired in 2005 they found her replacement well in advance of her retirement. Have they decided, having experienced the problems that Mrs Seex has caused, that it is better to get rid of the old before recruiting the new?

        Jerry White, LGO and Vice Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE), Tony Redmond, LGO and Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England and now Ann Abraham Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and a member of the Commission for Local Administration in England. 3 down, only two to more discredited Public Service Ombudsmen to go, Anne Seex and Jane Martin!