SHEFFIELD Council has been criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman for its response to two complaints about housing repairs – including a case in which a tenant waited eight months for a gas service. Read the full story from the source The Star
The problem is that we have been here before, LGO criticises a council, council ignores them and carries on as before. The LGO can make recommendations but cannot force a council to follow them.
It's a bit like a judge saying to the defendant I recommend you go to jail for 3 months but have no power to put you in jail. Or I recommend you pay a fine of £250 but have no power to make you pay.
The LGOs are, and always have been, toothless poodles pretending to be watchdogs with only one option and that is to suck up to councils in an attempt to gently persuade them to do the right thing and stop all their wrongdoing. Now whilst this tactic may work with the few good councils, what about the Wirrals, Barnets, Sheffields, Traffords and others of this world.
A commentator on the original article linked to about sums it up when they say: "Every year the LGO criticises Sheffield City Council for the way it treats the people of the city and expresses concerns over the way the council is run. The council are always guilty of deception, laziness, a lack of urgency and contempt for the LGO. And every year the council are allowed to carry on just the same. They never change and it seems nobody can make them. They are above the law and act accordingly."
The bottom line is that the Local Government Ombudsman is a waste of taxpayers money for four reasons
1) they cost significantly more than they recover in compensation for the people who complain to them about injustice suffered through council wrongdoing.
2) in spite of them manipulating their statistics in an attempt to bury the truth, council wrongdoing has risen year on year.
3) in spite of them manipulating their customer satisfaction surveys in an attempt to bury the truth, the number of dissatisfied complainants has risen year on year.
4) they report too little council wrongdoing as maladministration, preferring instead to bury it with the help of the council as a settled complaint. Please note: The complainant cannot stop a council and local government ombudsman conspiring to bury their complaint this way. The average compensation is about £500.
The reason they prefer to bury complaints as settled is down to their lack of mandatory powers. If they were to report council wrongdoing for what it is, maladministration, the council is free to ignore any recommendations of compensation.
Therefore, if the LGO can get the council to agree to pay compensation this wouldn't expose the fact they can't force them to pay. However, they only thing they have to offer the council in exchange for agreeing to pay the compensation is that they won't record their wrongdoing as maladministration.
As a result most of the council wrongdoing in England is not reported it is hidden from scrutiny. Less than 1% of all complaints are reported as maladministration whilst some 25% of all complaints which consist of council wrongdoing are hidden as settled and not reported. In spite of the fact that the complainant had no say in the matter.
Unfortunately a full council only has to consider reports finding injustice through maladministration not settled cases, which leads to another and more serious problem. Settled cases aren't scrutinised properly by the council, allowing those guilty of wrongdoing, usually senior officers, to deviously cover their backsides at taxpayers expense.
If a Local Government Ombudsman's investigation is likely to reveal maladministration on the part of a senior officer all they have to do is offer to pay a few hundred pounds compensation to settle the case and hey presto the case is settled. The amount of compensation is usually less than they can spend under delegated powers and no report of injustice caused through maladministration is published. That means that the full council does not necessarily know about the incident. All that is reported to the full council in the LGO's annual review is how many cases were settled, not the full detail.
What doesn't help is that fact that many LGO and their staff are ex officers and were brought up knowing how to escape full council scrutiny by settling complaints early. Therefore, now working for the LGO they can hardly stop this devious practice because if they did they would have to admit they benefited from it when they were council officers.
Therefore the most accurate description of a Local Government Ombudsman is a duplicitous toothless poodle.