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.

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