Saturday, August 06, 2011

No maladministration my arse

There was an article in an on-line local paper recently which was essentially nothing more than a rehash of press releases issued by local councils together with extracts from the annual review letter sent to councils by the Local Government Ombudsman.

At this time of the years you will find many local newspapers doing exactly the same because every year the Local Government Ombudsman sends out an annual review letter regarding councils' performance. If you are interested in your own council download their annual letter here.

If you ignore the usual padding, information which is included in every annual review sent to councils, such as what training the LGO can offer a council, or a summary of any changes to their remit, basically what you are left with is scant detail of a councils performance when it comes to complaints.

Using the "No maladministration here" article from the newspaper above as an example
"NO findings of maladministration causing injustice were found against either West Norfolk Council or Breckland Council in the Local Government Ombudsman’s latest annual review. "
This statement is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. Whilst it may be true that no reports finding maladministration leading to injustice where issued it is not true to say no maladministration was found.

Reading on you will see how this misrepresentation is made possible with a little help from their friends the LGO.
"In regard to the borough council [West Norfolk Council] .... two [complaints] were resolved through local settlements" 
"In Breckland [Breckland Council] .... two [complaints] were local settlements.
So what is a local settlement and why, if you were not guilty of maladministration, would you agree to pay a complainant compensation?

This is how it works, during the investigation as soon as it becomes obvious to all concerned that maladministration leading to injustice has taken place, a local settlement is either offered by the LGO or asked for by the council. If a settlement between them is agreed, further investigation is dropped and a report finding maladministration leading to injustice is never issued.

It is important to note that the complainant cannot stop the LGO terminating their complaint as a local settlement. It is agreed between the LGO and the Council. Therefore, it can't really be classed as a settlement and neither can it be classed as local. Something I have been arguing for years. Here's is an early post on the subject, there are many more, just put local settlements in the search my blog bar (top right).

Since they were illegally introduced by the LGO some years ago, local settlements have received so such much criticism the discredited Local Government Ombudsman has finally been forced to discontinue using the misleading term.

Local settlements will in future be described as ‘Discontinued investigation: injustice remedied'. 

Back to the original story. The Local Government Ombudsman is empowered to investigate maladministration leading to injustice. The article proudly boats "no maladministration here", however, if the investigations were discontinued because the injustices were remedied, logic dictates that the councils in question must have been guilty of at least two counts  of maladministration each.

So why do councils mislead the public and why do the LGO appear so keen to help them?

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