Saturday, February 11, 2012

The LGO: One rule for complainants and one for MPs

Ombudsman agrees to look into Age UK grievance against council following MP's intervention,

A local government watchdog has reversed its decision not to investigate Watford Borough Council over the Age UK Hertfordshire saga following intervention by the area’s MP.

The Local Government Ombudsman will now look into a complaint by Age UK that it has been "defamed" by the authority following the acrimonious fallout between the pair over a £500,000 repairs bill.

Originally, Age UK Hertfordshire was told by the watchdog that it would have to pursue its grievance against the council through the courts.

However Watford MP Richard Harrington then wrote to the ombudsman saying he felt it was inappropriate for the charity to go down an expensive legal route and asked the organisation to clarify its position.

 Mr Harrington said: "I was pleased to receive the letter from the ombudsman in response to my letter to them to discuss avenues through which Age UK can be represented.

"I am satisfied with the response from the ombudsman clarifying that the charity is able to take recourse through the ombudsman as I feel is proper for charities who cannot afford to pursue cases through the courts.

My comment: Most complainants can't afford to pursue their cases through the courts but the Ombudsman still rejects them. Whilst I have every sympathy with the charity many complainants, who's complaints have been rejected by the Ombudsman, have suffered from much more serious injustice than defamation. This is a clear case of one rule for the ordinary complainant and another for a charity supported by an MP. 

The Ombudsman should treat every complaint the same not give MPs special treatment. In addition MPs should support all complainants who can't afford to pursue their complaints through the courts and not pick and choose those which are likely to give them the maximum possible positive publicity.

Read the full story from the source Watford Observer

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