Monday, July 25, 2011

The Local Government Ombudsman and their fifteen pillars of injustice

Further to my previous update on the subject, the Local Government Ombudsman and their fourteen pillars of injustice. I have now decided to add another pillar of injustice to the list.

(1) They 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,
(11) they are free to engage in propaganda (or as Justice Lightman calls it an evangelical agenda),
(12) they probably don't meet the requirements of the Human Rights Act. Justice Lightman's view,
(13) they often accept false statements from a council officer as the truth without any validation (Their 5th pillar of injustice ensures nobody else is in a position to challenge this ludicrous pillar of injustice),
(14) they don't take action against any council officer who has lied to them. 
(15) they don't report any potentially criminal act they identify during their investigations to the Police.

Compare the LGO fifteen pillars of injustice above to the Courts/Tribunal fifteen pillars of justice below.

(1) Court proceedings are held in public,
(2) either side can appeal a judgement on a finding of fact,
(3) the judge is qualified,
(4) a judge can't delegate their job to a junior member of staff,
(5) all evidence is shown to both sides,
(6) a judge can't talk to one side without the other side being present,
(7) any out of court settlement is agreed between the two parties. The judge plays no part,
(8) they have to follow case law or provide a valid reason for not doing so,
(9) statutory definitions exist for all legal wrongs,
(10) a judge can't stop you taking court action even if the injustice you have suffered is slight,
(11) a judge cannot use self promoting publicity (propaganda),
(12) all court/tribunal cases have to be human rights compliant.
(13) statements are not accepted as the truth by a judge without (a) being made under oath and (b) tested by counter argument and cross examination by the other party.
(14) action can be taken against anyone who commits perjury in court.
(15) a judge would report any potentially criminal act they identify during a trial to the Police. 

Local Government Ombudsmen are nothing more than a government sponsored quango whose remit is to bury as much of the unpleasant and offensive features of Local Government as they can.

If they weren't why does the government force everyone who has a complaint about Local Government to use such a discredited and biased system of administrative justice? Why no administrative tribunal with similar powers and accountability to a proper court?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Local Government Ombudsmen and Internal Complaints

I have been asked on a number of occasions recently whether it is worth a complainant submitting an internal complaint to the Ombudsman.

Here are two, of many examples I could give, that illustrate the futility of submitting a complaint to a Local Government Ombudsman about the way in which your complaint was dealt with or for something else you think they did wrong.

I once submitted an internal complaint because an assistant ombudsman instigated a complaint in my name without my permission. Something that they had no legal right to do. However, when I brought this to the attention of the Local Government Ombudsman my complaint was dismissed on the grounds that the assistant ombudsman was only trying to be helpful.

Therefore, if the Local Government Ombudsman is happy to dismiss quite serious complaints about her staff what chance does the average complainant have when submitting a lesser complaint?

On another occasion I submitted a Freedom of Information request to my local council. The council could have quite easily stated they did not have the document but instead they contacted the Local Government Ombudsman's office who fabricated a copy of the document I had requested from the council. The council then sent me a copy of this fabricated letter which, if I hadn't been able to prove it had been fabricated, implied that they had the document I had requested all the time.

When I brought this to the attention of the Local Government Ombudsman, by way of an internal complaint, it was once again brushed aside as the office only trying to be helpful.

Considering the Local Government Ombudsman's response to very serious complaints one has to question whether it's worth submitting an internal  complaint at all.

In a later post I will tell you more about why and how they often wrongly categorise internal complaints.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Prime Minister admits turning a blind eye to wrongdoing

David Cameron talking about the Hacking Scandal: "The deeper truth is this... because party leaders were so keen to win the support of newspapers we turned a blind eye to the need to sort this issue, get on top of the bad practices, to change the way our newspapers are regulated," he said. "I want to deal with it."

However, whilst David Cameron has now been forced into action regarding the failure of the Press Complaints Commission to stop phone hacking, he and others in power are still turning a blind eye to other wrongdoing.

For example, what he said about the PCC could equally apply to other watchdog, whilst I have used the Local Government Ombudsman as an example below you can substitute any other watchdog you wish. The Care Quality Commission would be another good example.

1) What he could also have said about Local Government: "The deeper truth is this... because party leaders were so keen to win the support of local government we turned a blind eye to the need to sort this issue, get on top of the bad practices, to change the way local government is regulated."

So there you have it, a not fit for purpose Press Complaints Commission, Local Government Ombudsman (or any other watchdog you wish to name) because it helps those in power turn a blind eye to the need to sort anything out and get on top of bad practices.

Toothless poodles

Ed Miliband described the Press Complaints Commission as a ‘toothless poodle’ today.

Funny because I have been saying that about the LGO for years. (Please note since the linked  to post was made only fluffy remains, Fifi and Fido have left the building.

It obviously takes a scandal to get senior politicians to take notice.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Law Commission Review of Public Service Ombudsmen

I am expecting the review to be published shortly but don't hold out much hope of improvement as far as complainants are concerned. When problems with the Local Government Ombudsman have been exposed in the past the Government either ignored them or gave them extra powers to legalise their actions.

Remember local settlements! The LGO introduced these without statutory authority using devious semantic gymnastics to get round the problem. What they did was call maladministration administrative fault if they wanted to locally settle a case. They did this because the law said they had to publish a report if they found maladministration. Hence the semantic gymnastics. Even Tony Redmond, the then Chair of the Commission for Local Government Administration in England admitted they were the same thing. When this was pointed out to the Government did they stop the LGO using illegal local settlements? NO they didn't, they just amended the law to make local settlements legal.

The Government also had a chance in 2005 to improve the rotten system of administrative justice in this country but cut short their investigation into the Role and Effectiveness of the Local Government Ombudsman after the Chair of the Select Committee, the driving force behind the investigation, retired.

In addition, the Government has had many chances to improve the system over the years and failed to do so in spite of overwhelming evidence that it is not fit for purpose. Indeed they made matters much worse in 1995 when they started to recruit ex council staff as Ombudsmen. That's when it started to go downhill and as of today it is still going in that direction.

So much so that the only way they can look at all slightly effective is to manipulate their customer satisfaction survey and their compliance statistics.

Hence my fear that nothing good will come out of this review as far as complainants are concerned.

Like all public consultations, the organisations concerned know what they want at the outset. Public consultations are just a means of giving the public the impression they were involved in the final recommendations. Just because organisations consult with the public doesn't mean they have to listen. As can be evidenced with most local authority consultation exercises. And the fact that we now have one of the worst systems of administrative justice in the world.

Furthermore, name one Watchdog or Ombudsman in England that's fit for purpose. You can't because the Government don't want effective watchdogs and ombudsmen because if they did then we would have them and they wouldn't be staffed to the gunnels from the authorities they are supposed to be investigating/monitoring.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Tony Redmonds replacement UPDATE

Further to my previous post Where is Tony Redmond's replacement?

We have now received more information from the DCLG in response to a request for an internal review of an earlier FOI request.

1. The interviews were held on 15 February 2011.
2. 25 candidates applied for the post and four were interviewed.
3. The Department does not currently hold information on the planned date for the successful candidate to take up office.
4. The final selection has not yet taken place.

However, it still doesn't explain why they took so long to start the recruitment process. Especially since they knew Tony Redmond was going to retire in November 2010 when he was recruited in 2001.

I think there is still an unknown reason for the extraordinary delay.