Thursday, December 22, 2011

The woolly thinking Local Government Omudsman

Council refuses to fork out £260,000 over homes row 

SOUTH Holland’s councillors have refused to pay out compensation of more than £260,000 relating to a controversial housing development or to accept a report accusing them of maladministration.

District council members unanimously disagreed with the findings of the Local Government Ombudsman, who had been investigating a three-year-old complaint into the authority’s actions with the Nestwood Homes development in Old Main Road, Fleet Hargate.

A special meeting was held on Monday to decide what action to take on the report, which recommended compensation be made to the developer for reasons including stress, strain and damage to reputation.

The long-running saga into the site started when new homes were built on a different land level to existing properties, which prompted enforcement action and a public inquiry.

He added: “It seems to me the Ombudsman was thinking somewhat woolily and was at worst biased in favour of this company and against our council unfairly in my opinion.”

Coun Bryan Alcock also raised concerns about the “strange” report.

He said: “I find some of the inflammatory way of talking within the report strange.
“I can recognise the style because it’s one I have used from time to time and that’s why I am not an Ombudsman.”

Councillors had been warned Nestwood Homes may choose to take action through the courts but Coun Francis Biggadike urged his fellow councillors not to be “afraid” if they did not accept the report.

“I believe the Ombudsman’s report was far from factual and not at all impartial,” he said.

Councillors voted in favour of receiving the report but said the council does not intend on paying any compensation.

My comment: Complainants are already aware that most reports by the Local Government Ombudsman are strange, far from factual and not at all impartial but it's interesting that councils are now supporting that view.

Read the full story from the source Spalding Guardian

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all visitors

So where it Tony Redmond's replacement?

Tony Redmond, Local Government Ombudsman and Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England retired on the 11th November 2010.

Historically a replacement is recruited before an existing LGO retires, however, This is the second time they have not recruited a replacement Ombudsman until well after their predecessor left.

Rumours  suggest that his replacement was selected long ago but no date has been given when they will take up post.

At least they won't be able to pick up any bad habits from their predecessor. 

My earlier posts on the subject. [1]  [2]

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Local Government Ombudsmen and other watchdogs: The final insult

The Local Government Ombudsman costs the taxpayer many £millions a year. Other watchdogs and ombudsmen cost considerably more.

The bodies they supposedly investigate for wrongdoing such as local authorities, government departments etc cost the taxpayers many £billions.

Whilst the Local Government Ombudsman only has the power to recommend compensation, should they find a public body guilty of wrongdoing, other watchdogs, such as the Information Commission, can actually fine them.

However, recommended compensation or fine makes no difference to my 'final insult' argument.

No matter who is responsible within a public body and no matter how serious the offence, all our pathetic watchdogs can do is use a financial deterrent against the public body not individuals within a public body. Which means that the taxpayer also picks up the tab for any public body wrongdoing.

A triple whammy for the taxpayer. 
(1) they have to pay for all public bodies.
(2) they have to pay for all the public service ombudsmen and watchdogs.
(3) they have to pay the compensation or fine.
Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.

(1) The Information found two councils guilty of losing unencrypted laptops containing sensitive personal data and fined them a total of £150,000. (There are many other examples available.)

Both laptops were password protected but unencrypted – despite this being in breach of both councils’ policies.

It must have been someone’s responsibly to ensure all laptops were encrypted. Therefore, the ICO should have the powers to force the council to sack, or at least discipline, the individual responsible not fine taxpayers for their wrongdoing.

(2) The Local Government Ombudsman recently found a council guilty of maladministration and recommended they pay £5000 compensation to the victim. (There are many other examples available.)

No one appears to have been sacked or even disciplined because the ombudsman states 'There has been comprehensive staff training since the events in Ms B’s complaint and so the Ombudsman has not recommended any further action.'

Unfortunately this case also illustrates a fourth whammy for the taxpayer.

The final  insult is

(4) they also have to pay to train the staff responsible.

So the bottom line is that only victims and taxpayers suffer as a result of public sector wrongdoing. Public bodies, staff guilty of wrongdoing and elected representatives are all winners.

No wonder elected representatives and our public bodies prefer to keep our pathetic system of administrative justice.