Tuesday, June 21, 2011

LGO second reports

The LGO are supposed to issue a second report if the authority concerned does not provide the remedy recommended by the Ombudsman in their initial report.

However, the LGO don't always issue a second report because the wording of the Local Government Act allows them to evade doing so. [If the Local Commissioner -  is not satisfied with the action which the authority concerned have taken they can issue a second report.]

What goes on between an initial report and the second report, should an authority concerned refuse to provide the recommended remedy, is a period of negotiation in which the LGO tries to persuade the authority concerned to provide a remedy that will satisfy them even if it's not the recommended remedy.

Therefore, if a council refuse to provide the recommended remedy but offer a lesser remedy the LGO often accept the lesser remedy by simple stating that they are satisfied with the action the authority concerned has taken, and hey presto, no need for a second report even though the authority concerned failed to provide anything like the remedy recommended in the initial report.

However, there comes a time when even these devious tactics can't be used and on occasions the LGO is forced to issue a second report. Below is a list of the LGO's 2008/9 second reports.

Note the delay between issuing the initial report and issuing the second report. to the authority concerned. [The Local Government Act states, If the Local Commissioner - does not within a reasonable time receive confirmation from the authority concerned that they have taken action, as proposed, to the satisfaction of the Local Commissioner.]

Unfortunately, just as the word 'satisfied' is clearly open to misuse so are the words 'within a reasonable time'. For how long is a reasonable time for an authority to provide a remedy for an injustice they have caused.

In Tyndale's case the LGO concerned was obviously quite happy waiting 14 months before issuing a second report. In the King David Primary School example the LGO was obviously quite happy to wait a similar amount of time.

Local Government Ombudsmen don't like issuing reports at all but dread issuing second reports because it proves conclusively that they can be ignored with impunity by the authority concerned. Therefore, they will do everything in their power to resolve the problem before being forced to issue a second report.

Knowing this gives the authorities concerned a very strong bargaining position when negotiating a lesser remedy than that initially suggested by a Local Government Ombudsman and is just one of the reasons why Local Government Ombudsmen have to dance to the authority's tune.

I am sure this is what the Government wanted when they introduced toothless Local Government Ombudsmen. As far as the public are concerned they are a system of administrative justice but as far as the authorities under investigation are concerned they are just a watchdog they can either control or ignore.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why recruit a replacement LGO at all

The previous chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England and Local Government Ombudsman retired during November 2010. Since that time we have only had two out of the normal complement of three  Local Government Ombudsmen in England.

Therefore, why should the taxpayer fork out £170,000 plus for a replacement LGO when it is now evident that they are not needed. They had little effect on council wrongdoing before November 2010 and nothing has changed since.

So why not save the taxpayer some £16million a year and get rid of them all. The ineffectual LGO have no impact on council wrongdoing just as the ineffectual Care quality Commission has had no impact on care home wrongdoing.

Currently our watchdogs are nothing more than taxpayer funded government sponsored window dressing that have now become part of the problem not part of the solution.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

An upside of the LGO, don't be daft!

One would imagine that if you are one of the lucky 1% of all complainants who manage to prise a finding of maladministration leading to injustice out of a Local Government Ombudsman you would be a happy bunny.

Not so, some of the most disatisfied of all users are those who have managed to persuade the LGO to find a council guilty of Maladministration leading to injustice.

Here is a recent  example of why complainants, who successfully convince a Local Government Ombudsman to find their council guilty of maladministration leading to injustice, have every right feel the system of administrative justice has badly let them down.
East Staffordshire Borough Council were found to have provided  ‘maladministration causing injustice’ and agreed to pay compensation to four complainants.
In 2006, a farmer submitted a planning application for the erection of a building to be used as a free range egg laying unit.
The application was considered under delegated powers and was refused on the grounds that the size and position of the building would have an imposing impact on the surrounding area and would be visually prominent.
The applicant appealed against the decision and permission was subsequently granted by the Planning Inspectorate.
As part of the appeal process, the council submitted a response but did not include any conditions it considered should be added if the inspector was minded to grant permission.
The applicant then imported more than 100,000 tonnes of material to the site to build up the land and produce a level area on which to build.
Dr Jane Martin, on behalf of the Local Government Ombudsman, said: “The complainants had a reasonable expectation that the council would do more to protect their position and defend the appeal, but the council had done the minimum required.
“In my view, the council then had a duty to defend its decision and respond to the Planning Inspectorate. The council did not robustly defend the appeal. It had the opportunity to suggest conditions but did not do so.”
As a result of the investigation, the authority agreed to make a payment of £500 per household to the complainants who lived in the three nearest properties — a Mrs Parker, Mr McCarthy and Mr and Mrs Noble.
A payment of £150 to a Mr and Mrs Dyer was also made to recognise their time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. [My emphasis] Read the full story from the source Burton Mail
So there you have it, initially let down by their council and then let down again by a Local Government Ombudsman.  £500 compensation for each of the three families who have to put up with a problem created because of their council's maladministration for the rest of their lives.

No wonder Councils tell complainants to go to the LGO.

Now compare what the council had to pay out for maladministration with the £5,000 that the council wanted to fine people who left their bins out too long and refused to pay the £100 fine within 14 days.

UPDATE 6th June 2011: Even the council is unhappy with the LGO.

A COUNCIL has hit back after it was criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman over its handling of a planning appeal.

My comment: I can understand their anger, after all these years they must have got used to the LGO burying complaints against them, it must have been a real shock to actually receive a report finding maladministration. 

Read the ful story from the source Burton Mail

UPDATE 27th June 2011: Houses of Parliament read this post today.