Saturday, August 27, 2011

LGO and Council silly season is here again

It's that time of year again in which councils receive their annual spin letters from the Local Government Ombudsman. Get your councils full annual letter here and find out how many cases of wrongdoing and maladministration the LGO buried for them.

Local press all around the country are printing extracts from their council's letter with the misleading headline...NO MALADMINISTRATION. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It's all down to the use of a devious tactic I like to call statistical gymnastics.

When is maladministration not maladministration? If an ombudsman finds maladministration but the council agree to pay a paltry amount of compensation it is not recorded as maladministration. However, should the council refuse to pay a paltry amount of compensation it becomes maladministration and reported as such.

This forces the council to publicise the fact that the ombudsman has found maladministration, which usually costs more than the settlement the ombudsman would have been happy with. Therefore, only a stupid council would turn down the ombudsman's offer to terminate a complaint if they pay the complainant a paltry amount of compensation. Which on average is less than £600.

A cheap and nasty pseudo system of administrative justice allows local government ombudsmen, councils and government to bury council wrongdoing and maladministration on the cheap, so it's a win, win, win situation for them.

The only losers are complainants who don't get the justice they deserve and of course the general public who are left in the dark about the true level of council wrongdoing and maladministration.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another not fit for purpose toothless watchdog?

Most people are already aware that the Local Government Ombudsman is a not fit for purpose toothless watchdog whose sole purpose appears to be to give false hope to complainants. Just long enough for other remedies to be no longer available to the complainant and then they bury the complaint as quick as they can. Unless of course it's a high profile one that can be used for propaganda purposes as part of their evangelical agenda.

Well it looks they are not alone...The Legal Service Ombudsman appears to be another not fit for purpose toothless watchdog.

Read more on the link particularly the comments.

My favourites

1) How happy are the 3768 people with the service?

My answer: Like the LGO I doubt they will ever allow an independent organisation to ask them all. More than likely they will pre-select a few and then ask the right questions to get the answers they want.  

2) £21.4M / 3,768 complaints investigated = £5,679 per complaint (or a bargain basement £2,202 against operating costs only). The report says they have 263 employees. That's an average of 14 complaints dealt with by each of them. You couldn't make it up, could you? Did Sampson keep a straight face when he said "the organisation had had a cost-effective and efficient start, and was proving to be an effective model", as he trousered a very "cost-effective" £161K for a job worth about half that?

My answer: The LGO also keep a straight face when they talk about how cost effective and efficient they are whilst trousering vast sums of taxpayers money.

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?