Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Local Government Ombudsman and their tenth pillar of injustice

Further to my previous updates on the subject, the Local Government Ombudsman and their ninth pillar of injustice, the Local Government Ombudsman and their eighth pillar of injustice and the original post the Local Government Ombudsman and their seven pillars of injustice

I now have a tenth pillar of injustice to add to the list. More to come!

The ten 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,
(9) they are free to define maladministration as they see fit,
(10) they are free to determine the level of injustice you must suffer before investigating your complaint.

In a proper system of justice they first determine if a wrong has been committed. Once this has been established the degree of injustice you have suffered, as a result of the wrong, is used to determine the remedy / level of compensation. However, with the Local Government Ombudsman this is not the case. Whilst they are supposed to investigate complaints of maladministration which have caused injustice, they don't.

Just as Local Government Ombudsmen can arbitrarily define maladministration they can also arbitrarily decide the level of injustice you must have suffered before they investigate your complaint, no matter how serious the alleged maladministration [1 below]. To reduce the number of valid complaints they have to investigate they have continually raised the level of injustice you need to suffer before they even consider investigating your complaint. 

What the Government intended when they set up the LGO in 1974.
An example of the level of injustice you had to suffer before they started to raise the bar. 

Since the mid 90s, curiously when ex council officers started to be recruited as Local Government Ombudsmen (White 1995, Redmond, 2001, Seex 2005 and Martin 2010), the injustice you are expected to suffer before they will investigate your complaint has steadily increased. 

Now Local Government Ombudsmen only investigate complaints of maladministration leading to significant injustice to the complainant. As with maladministration they are also free to arbitrarily define significant.

Footnote: If you think suffering significant injustice through council maladministration will lead to the Local Government Ombudsman finding in your favour you are wrong. They will just use another pillar of injustice to bury a finding of maladministration for their friends and ex colleagues. Here is an example of a complaint that should have been recorded as maladministration leading to injustice (and would have prior to the mid 90's) but was locally settled by a Local Government Ombudsman using their 7th pillar of injustice. 

[1] A complaint was submitted to the Local Government Ombudsman about financial mistreatment  of a number of elderly residents. Whilst the residents in question had suffered horrendous financial consequences as a result of Council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman refused to investigate because the person who submitted the complainant wasn't one of the people who had suffered the injustice. 

Yet all the complainant expected them to do was what the Government intended them to do when they set them up in 1974.

When Ombudsmen were introduced, Crossman, the leader of the house of commons, stated

 "We intend that the outraged citizen ....shall have the right to an investigation, even where he has suffered no loss or damage in the legal sense of those terms, but is simply a good citizen who has nothing to lose and wishes to clear up a sense of outrage and indignation at what he believes to be maladministration."


However, the complainant failed to appreciate that since the mid 90s the service has been slowly corrupted by an ever increasing influx ex council officers 

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