Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bristol City Council has admitted lying to the Local Government Ombudsman

Bristol City Council has admitted giving false information to a Government watchdog during a dispute with a persistent complainant.

The council unilaterally declared artist Graeme Robbins vexatious after he repeatedly complained about controversial temporary traffic lights outside his home.

It wrongly told the Local Government Ombudsman Mr Robbins had bombarded it with more than 300 emails during its attempts to get him off its back.

My comment: It is no surprise that a council has lied to the Local Government Ombudsman. let's face it they do it all the time. What is surprising is that the Local Government has for once actually reported the fact. However, very little appears to have been done to punish those who lied.

Read the full story from the source Westbury People

Monday, June 11, 2012

If the Local Government Ombudsman wasn't bad enough!

"Communities secretary Eric Pickles has chosen not to replace one of the three ombudsman and will instead appoint a chief officer who will take care of the day to day running of the organisation.
The government’s ‘open public services’ white paper outlined a role for the ombudsmen as providing services that support citizens’ needs with a particular emphasis on consumer champions.
Sir Tony Redmond, one of the three members of the Commission for Local Administration in England, retired in 2010. The two remaining ombudsmen - chair Dr Jane Martin and vice-chair Anne Seex - were questioned by the select committee this week about the changes. Committee chair Clive Betts (Lab) said that Mr Pickles’ proposed changes - which also include a “comprehensive” reduction in staff numbers and a refocus on cases involving serious service failures - were “hardly… a ringing endorsement of how the service had operated in the past”. [My emphasis]
Dr Martin insisted that the changes were necessary because of the 14% budget cuts the service had been dealt. However, she also later admitted that in some cases it had had taken up to a year for the ombudsman to reach a decision - a delay she conceded “probably” amounted to maladministration.
Mr Pickles has also expressed a wish to send the entire organisation to Coventry, as putting the commission on a single site would provide “best value for money”.
“We are committed throughout the period to consolidate, as far as we can, to the Coventry office,” she told the communities and local government select committee on Monday. “However, we will not rule out the possibility of having investigative staff, particularly, based in London and York, because we want to ensure that we retain the best investigative staff we can”."
My comment: How an earth can the Local Government Ombudsman [LGO] be considered consumer champions when they already bury nearly all local authority wrongdoings and report less than 1% of all cases as maladministration? A reduction in staff numbers, concentrating on serious service failurs will mean only one thing, the LGO will bury even more local authority wrongdoing that they do now. Looks to me like all Eric is interested in is saving money not improving they system of administrative justice.

"we want to ensure that we retain the best investigative staff we can”. What you mean the ones that just ring up the council, accept what they say and refuse to investigate properly? Which is what most appear to do!

Read the full story from the source Local Government Chronicle

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Wirral Council and the Discredited Local Government Ombudsman

Further to my earlier post, Wirral Council: Where was the Local Government Ombudsman?

Recent events have made the Local Government Ombudsman's position even worse.

Frank Field slams Wirral council higways contract ‘incompetence’

WIRRAL council was so incompetent “serious fraud was probably impossible to organise”, an MP claimed today. [my emphasis]

Birkenhead MP Frank Field spoke out following a watchdog’s damning report into the council's actions.

The public interest report by the district auditor looked into a multi-million pound highways contract which the council signed to save money.

It found the council was unable to show the contract actually provided value for money and also criticised the council’s technical services director David Green for meeting the winning contractor and then failing to fully declare an interest. Mr Green was suspended earlier this year while the auditor finished his report.

Mr Field, who asked the Audit Commission to investigate after being contacted by council whistleblowers, said: “I had come to believe the administration of the council was merely broken-backed. I was clearly far too optimistic.”

My comment: Good job he didn't ask the discredited Local Government Ombudsman to investigate for if he had they would have just buried the problem for Wirral Council as they have with many other of their wrongdoings over the years.

Read the full story from the source Liverpool Daily Post

Council director 'probably broke EU rules' over multi-million pound highways contract

A SENIOR Wirral Council officer met a private contractor months before his firm was awarded work with the local authority worth tens of millions of pounds.

An astonishing report published today by the Audit Commission concludes that David Green, the council's currently suspended Director of Technical Services, “probably” broke European Union Treaty rules by meeting with the company representative – and by further then failing to declare an interest when the contract was awarded.

It is the second time in six months the council has been seriously rebuked for failings in its corporate governance.

Last year independent consultant Anna Klonowski found that in Wirral, practices which would be viewed as abnormal in most other local authorities "had become seen as commonplace”. [my emphasis]

My comment: Over the previous six years the Local Government Ombudsman only ever found Wirral Council guilty of maladministration twice.  Yet in six months two other bodies not only find significant wrongdoing they also report abnormal practices. All going on over the six years the LGO was issuing glowing annual reports about Wirral Council.

Read the full story from the Wirral Globe

Wirral Council is going back to old ways

Many vulnerable people became casualties and had their lives devastated by the terrible happenings that took place that were ignored initially but then highlighted in the detailed AKA report. [my emphasis]

My comment: What would have happened if any of these vulnerable people had complained to the Local Government Ombudsman? Well if the Ombudsman's track record is anything to go by they would have been dismissed out of hand after a quick telephone call with the council.

Read the full letter from the source Wirral Globe

More background blog posts about Wirral Council here