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.

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