Thursday, December 21, 2006
Well would you believe it, one working day before the Xmas holidays and I receive much of the information I have been waiting for.
No doubt it was just a coincidence that it arrived at this moment in time. At least it will give me a few good laughs over the holidays. More fun than the jokes in a Cristmas cracker.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
At the moment I feel like a Turkey, nothing to look forward to other than a good stuffing by the Ombudsman.
Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.
Back in 2007, Trevor.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
This one is about a Council that wrongly used the courts (abuse of process) in an attempt to get its own way.
I have also been threatened with court action (abuse of power) just so the County Council can get its own way. Up to now the County Council have never followed through with their threats but if they do I intend to prove abuse of power as David Wilkinson has done.
This is just bully boy tactics by practically unaccountable councils. Let's hope that David gets the compensation he deserves.
The problem now facing David is that he appears unaware of the biased Local Government Ombudsman. They will probably just re-interpret the facts in an attempt to put forward a fallacious argument that it was all David's fault in the first place and exonerate the council.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
However, I recently experienced a new twist to the Ombudsman’s policy. The Ombudsman doesn’t want to put me back into the position I was in before the acts of maladministration took place Even though that’s exactly what the council promised in 1998 to resolve an earlier complaint of maladministration. [Highway works would be carried out without any impact on my property.]
Incredulously the Ombudsman now wants me to help the council out of their self created difficulties by allowing the works to impact on my property.
So we now have the ludicrous situation where an Ombudsman found a council guilty of maladministration in 1997. But during 2001, in order to save the expense of moving the road, they decide to complete the Highway so that it will impact on my property.
When I complain to the Ombudsman the Ombudsman at first refuses to get involved. After a 5 year battle the Ombudsman decides to comeback on my complaint but immediately suggests that that I should now allow the council to complete the works, knowing that they will impact on my property.
Yes, you heard it here first, the Ombudsman actually wants me to supply the remedy for numerous acts of maladministration carried out against me by a council. Just to save the council the cost of the alternative.
Is this a worlds first?
Friday, December 01, 2006
An example of the level of injustice an Ombudsman thought you should have to suffer in the 90's before they would investigate your complaint is shown below.
Couple win pay out over chickens 'too noisy in the night'
A Couple who complained about a chicken farm in the middle of rural Suffolk are in line for a £3,250 pay out. Noise experts called in by the owner showed that the farm made less noise than an owl in the woods.
The council ordered him to keep it down to 25 decibels, little more than a loud whisper. But psychotherapist Gillian Hoy and retired lecturer Mike Diffey, whose cottage is a quarter of a mile away, referred the case to the local government Ombudsman. Yesterday, to the amazement of farmer Peter Davidson, he ruled that Mid-Suffolk district council had not responded to their complaints adequately and that they should be compensated.
'It's been a farm ever since there's been farming, and they're right In the middle of the biggest poultry-producing area in England,' he said. 'I ve leant over backwards over the years to accommodate them.' He started the poultry operation in Pixey Green near Diss in 1988, and the complaints began almost at once.
'The council have made my life a misery because of Mr Diffey,' he said. 'They couldn't have done anything more for him other than having me arrested.'Last night Mr Diffey and Mrs Hoy, who say they have been seen as 'incomers' since arriving 20 years ago, said they were delighted, but had no plans to stop complaining. Mrs Hoy, 51, said their lives had been made a misery by night-time chicken catching and lorry loading.
The council has accepted the ruling of maladministration, but has yet to agree to pay compensation, which it can legally ignore.
Submit the same complaint today (or even one with significantly more injustice) and your complaint would be stopped in its tracks by the current Ombudsmen.
When Ombudsmen were introduced Crossman, the leader of the house of commons stated
We have not tried to define injustice by using such terms as `loss or damage'. These may have legal overtones which could be held to exclude one thing which I am particularly anxious shall remain – the sense of outrage aroused by unfair or incompetent administration, even where the complainant has suffered no actual loss. We intend that the outraged citizen ....shall have the right to an investigation, even where he has suffered no loss or damage in the legal sense of those terms, but is simply a good citizen who has nothing to lose and wishes to clear up a sense of outrage and indignation at what he believes to be maladministration." My emphasis.
An earlier posting of mine 'LGO raise the bar' commented on the method used in the past by Ombudsmen to dismantle the Crossman catalogue by introducing qualifying words such as significant or material when talking about injustice.
However, recent developments prove that things have taken a turn for the worse. An Assistant Ombudsman has stated that the level of injustice is now the Ombudsman's principle means of keeping the number of complaints they have to investigate to an acceptable level. That means that they just alter the level of the bar to suit themselves. If they want to investigate x percentage of complaints then they just alter the level of the bar.
Can you imagine what an Ombudsman could now tell their staff, sod maladministration, sod injustice, lets just keep increasing the level of injustice a complainant is expected suffer (as a result of maladministration) until we don't have to investigate anything.
If we're lucky they will keep on going until they fiddle themselves out of a job.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Ignoring blatant lies and glaring inconsistencies produced by the Councils over the last few years they concentrated instead on trying to deconstruct my complaint with irrelevant and fallacious arguments.
It looks like a premonition I made in one of my earlier postings ‘Happy 9th Anniversary’ is coming true.
'Only time will tell but it's not looking good so far. They appear more interested in resolving the problem for the County Council than investigating my complaint. Two months and they still haven't asked the Council for a formal response to the allegations I made during 2002.'
It's now more than 6 months since the Ombudsman promised to investigate my complaint (with some priority) and I still haven't seen the County Council's response to my 2002 complaint.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
To view all 36 cartoons click here. There is sure to be one that fits your needs. If not email email@example.com and tell him what you are looking for.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
More Argumentum Ridiculosis from the Ombudsman, looks like Ombudsmen all over the word are just as bad as our lot when it comes to inventing ridiculous arguments to support their perverse decisions.
The Ombudsman said let the facts speak for itself. What are the facts?
Take a look at what the SC said the Comelec did that were wrong:
1. Awarded the Contract to MPC (Mega Pacific Consortium) though it did not even participate in the bidding.
2. Allowed MPEI (Mega Pacific eSolutions Inc.) to participate in the bidding despite its failure to meet the mandatory eligibility requirements.
3. Issued its Resolution of April 15, 2003 awarding the Contract to MPC despite the issuance by the BAC of its Report, which formed the basis of the assailed Resolution, only on April 21, 2003.
4. Awarded the Contract, notwithstanding the fact that during the bidding process, there were violations of the mandatory requirements of RA 8436 as well as those set forth in Comelec's own Request for Proposal on the automated election system.
5. Refused to declare a failed bidding and to conduct a re-bidding despite the failure of the bidders to pass the technical tests conducted by the Department of Science and Technology.
6. Failed to follow strictly the provisions of RA 8436 in the conduct of the bidding for the automated counting machines.
With all of these, the Ombudsman didn't find anything wrong! And to support its conclusion, it came up with the OJ Simpson case type of ending. OJ was criminally not liable, but he was in the civil case liable and ought to pay the family of his murdered wife. In the Ombudsman's case it said that the Supreme Court's findings were for civil liability, while what the Ombudsman looked for was criminal liability! Ha. What a way to muddle things up. Leave it to lawyers to do that.
In their lawyer's minds, it might make sense because they have made a partition in their brains between civil and criminal. But to non-lawyers like me, it is like being assaulted by a Galil or a Kalashnikov rifle where you can't say anything or cannot protest the unfairness of things lest you be mowed down with a hail of bullets. In this instance though, what was assaulted was the basic common sense: something was terribly wrong and somebody must be held accountable then punished. Yet the Ombudsman said there was a crime but no criminals. I smoked but I didn't inhale. There was a rape but there was no rapist! The inq7.net editorial today aptly described Merceditas Gutierrez as blind. Everything is there in front of her like a giant elephant threatening to stomp on her, yet she can't see!
Ellen a Philippine blogger Says:
October 4th, 2006 at 11:32 pm
How Much More Abuse Can We Take?
Another terrible blow was dealt to justice today, this time courtesy of the Ombudsman. Like a bat-wielding banshee, the office of the Ombudsman declared that there was no one to blame for the Mega Pacific scam, absolving the COMELEC and the rumored to have filed for dissolution, eleven day old (at the time of bidding) company of any wrongdoing.
“This is a travesty of justice! This is like saying a rape was indeed perpetrated, but there was no rapist”, declared Enteng Romano, lead convenor of the Black & White Movement. “The Ombudsman has committed grave abuse of discretion, not even bothering to point us in the right direction. Who shall we hold accountable?”
“This sad act has made the Ombudsman seem to be as dirty as the COMELEC is perceived. If the COMELEC believes it has been vindicated, it is sadly mistaken. First, Cha-Cha, now this. We hope our people see just how much injustice is being done to us”, said Leah Navarro, Black & White spokesperson.
The Supreme Court was clear, and we quote – “Truly, the pith and soul of democracy – credible, orderly, and peaceful elections – have been put in jeopardy by the illegal and abusive acts of the COMELEC.” And what shall become of these “illegal and abusive acts”? Will these abuses be relegated to our nation’s dimming memory? We pray our nation will not stand idly by.
The Black & White Movement condemns in no uncertain terms this obvious whitewash. In making this decision, the Ombudsman has proven that the people no longer have any where to turn for succor or assistance. Along with a few others, this institution has gone from the heights of probity to the bowels of infamy.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Planner jailed over bribes
A former area planning officer with the London Borough of Enfield who took bribes to pay for his wife's cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment has been jailed for 18 months.
Andrew Bigby, aged 41, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after admitting two counts of misconduct in a public office and two of concealing the proceeds of criminal conduct. The court heard that Bigby changed planning records and pushed through controversial extensions during nearly three years of shady dealing.
He collected more than £58,000 in bribes which he split with his wife, who was also employed by the council but in a separate department. Bigby's defence lawyer said the couple were desperate to have a child and had used up all their savings on IVF treatment.
Once Bigby began taking bribes he found it impossible to stop, the court heard. Sentencing Bigby, Judge Stephen Robbins said the planner's action had undermined public confidence in the planning system.
24 April 2006
Courtesy of the Government Planning Portal May2006
And now the bullshit in the latest LGO annual letter to
The councils own councillors apparently became so sick and tired of council workers in the planning department ignoring them that they sent a formal complaint to the Secretary Of State asking for an investigation of the councils planners long term failure to correspond, consult and cooperate over planning issues.
Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Council.
Officers from your Council’s planning enforcement section have been particularly helpful in providing responses to informal enquiries and updating us on the follow-up action being taken on complaints which I have discontinued. I consider this to be good practice. It demonstrates your officers’ commitment to the Borough’s citizens.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
In one case even a councillor can't get to the bottom of the problem because senior executives and other councillors continue to give him the run around. Why don't they just do their job in the first place? There is only one answer to that question and it's called a bung. (bribe, or "backhander", illicit payment made, usually to an official or person in influential position, in return for favour, information, or influence.) A developer can significantly increase their profits by persuading a council officer to play ball and not enforce planning obligations and conditions etc.
I wonder how many council staff/councillors have taken a bung from a developer then used their position to cover it up and just how big the problem really is?
What hope for the man in the street when he comes up against such a corrupt practice, particularly when we have such ineffective Local Government Ombudsmen?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Well here's proof that things won't improve after they do that.
OmbudsmanWatch in Scotland
Public Sector Ombudsman Watchers was set up in anticipation of things not improving after the merger and it look as though we have been proved right.
The merger is nothing more than window dressing to prolong the life of ineffective Ombudsmen.
Friday, November 03, 2006
A new website that exposes another rotten council.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The answer from Phil Woolas is very interesting. He states that the Local Government Act 1974 does not make provision for the ombudsman to make a specific finding of "administrative fault".
Yet we all know that the Ombudsman often make a finding of administrative fault as a prelude to a local settlement. The funny thing is that the Local Government Act 1974 doesn't make provision for the ombudsman to settle a case either but they do.
Ultra Vires! Ultra Vires! Ultra Vires! Ultra Vires!
To read an earlier posting on this subject click here.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
When dealing with the Local Government Ombudsman the phrase delay, delay, delay would appear to be more appropriate.
I was told in May 2006 that following a number of comeback requests my complaint would finally be investigated. I posted an update during August 2006 but at that time I was still waiting for the Councils' formal responses to my 2002 complaint. (My 2002 complaint was against two Councils, a Borough Council and a County Council.)
It's now the middle of October 2006 and I am still waiting for the County Councils' formal response to my 2002 complaint. Why am I still waiting after 5 months? The answer to that question will be posted in a few weeks.
Friday, October 06, 2006
This is intended to compliment rather than compete with Ombudsmanwatch. The main difference being the inclusion of complainants stories and experiences. Obviously this will now include the PHSO.
Some of the material that my fellow bloggers and I have on our blogs will also be uploaded to the new website. However, until the LGO resolve my complaint to my satisfaction I intend to continue with my personal blog in addition to assisting with the new site.
The new website will take some time to organise but from small acorns..............................! In any event the merger between the PHSO and LGO will not take place for a few months so there is plenty of time.
If you visit the site please be aware that they still have to upload the site template and core information. However, once that is done new information will be added at regular intervals.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Truth is like oil, no matter how much water you pour on it, it will always float. A proverb from Nigeria without a twist.
A tribunal of foxes will always find the fox innocent. A proverb from Ghana with a twist.
If you think all Council staff tell the truth, then you have not met all the council staff. A proverb from Malawi with a twist.
Saving the best till last,
A deceiver's ultimate victim is himself. A proverb from the Congo without a twist.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
LGO still fiddling statistics.
In their 2005/6 annual report Appendix 2(d) the Ombudsmen state that during 1998/1999 they issued 235 reports of maladministration leading to injustice.
I was one of those statistics because the report into my complaint was issued during the Autumn of 1998.
The annual report then states that there are no reports issued in 1998/1999 still awaiting a final outcome. Yet I am still waiting for the 'final outcome' recommended by the then Ombudsman in their report. So how did they record mine?
Here's the fiddle, if the LGO believe the council may not provide the remedy (or they are going to take a long time about it) they just end their involvement suggesting that they are satisfied the council is doing everything possible to provide the remedy. Even when, as in my case, nothing could be further from the truth.
So there you have it, here I am still waiting for the final outcome yet the Local Government Ombudsman gives the statistical impression in their 2005/6 annual report that there are no 1998/1999 reports still waiting for a final outcome. 8 years of smoke, mirrors, spin and massaged statistics.
I wonder how many other complainants they have stuffed just to enhance their statistics?
Sunday, September 17, 2006
To achieve this the Executive Committee agreed to establish a working group with the aim of identifying and drawing up a statement which can be used as a measure of quality assurance by current and potential BIOA members and other complaint-handling schemes and individuals, as well as those interested in the provision of such services. This information was published in the August issue of 'The Ombudsman' (The Newsletter of the BIOA).
The LGO are founder members of the BIOA yet the they have introduced the most perverse complaints handling principles and service standards that one could imagine. In addition they have an internal complaints procedure that wouldn’t be out of place in a third world dictatorship.
One of the members of the working group is going to be Jerry White, Local Government Ombudsman Coventry Office. I wonder how the LGO are going to get out of this one? Will Jerry White try and change the BIOA statement to minimise the problem with their own procedures or will the LGO change their procedures to meet the BIOA collegiate position?
A clue to what may happen can be found in an earlier posting about LGO accountability.
How did the LGO and the BIOA handle that problem. Did they ask the LGO to resign as members of the BIOA because they didn’t meet the membership criteria or did the BIOA change their entry criteria to allow the unaccountable LGO to remain members?
They did neither, they just removed the entry criteria from their web-site so it became more difficult for people to realise that their founder member did not in fact meet their membership criteria. No doubt one of the perks of being the founder member of the BIOA.
Unfortunately for the BIOA they have now given the LGO and themselves a another dilemma. The BIOA now stipulate that members should abide by the laws of natural justice but as everyone knows the LGO don’t.
So we now have the extraordinary situation that a founder member of the BIOA doesn’t meet at least two of the criteria necessary for membership of the very association they introduced; Accountability and Natural Justice. On top of that the BIOA are just about to issue a statement on good complaint handling procedures, procedures that the LGO has demonstrably failed to introduce themselves over the last 32 years.
You just couldn’t make this sort of stuff up but laughable as it may be it also clearly demonstrates the lack of integrity present within both organisations
Saturday, September 16, 2006
The LGO issued a report into my original complaint during October 1998. To date (16/9/2006) the council has still not provided the remedy and the Ombudsman has still not taken any further action. In fact during 2002 following the submission of another complaint the Ombudsman ended her involvement with my 1997/8 complaint and refused to investigate my 2002 complaint.
Six months! I've been waiting 8 years. Their report is nothing more than a load of smoke, mirrors and spin to further their own evangelical agenda.
It can be deduced from her article, when, why and how they decided to manipulate complaints rather than submit a report should they find evidence of maladministration.
I have decided to write a full article about my deductions rather than a simple post. I hope to have the article ready in a week or so. As soon as it's ready I will post in the archive and provide a link from this blog.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Parts of her article clearly proves how sycophantic and biased Local Government Ombudsmen are. No doubt Mrs Thomas handled all the complaints over her 20 years as a Local Government Ombudsman with the same sycophantic behaviour and perverse assumptions.
"One council leader told me that, although the council did not dispute my findings, he could not apologise because he would “lose face”! In that case we found a form of words which recognised the council’s fault but avoided the use of the word “sorry”.
Why did she feel the need to suck up to a Council Leader, particularly one she had clearly found at fault. I think her statement clearly shows that Local Government Ombudsmen have no professional integrity whatsoever. Can you imagine a Judge helping a convicted person in the same sycophantic way.
"Councils, however, began to develop their own complaints procedures and we began to notice that the complaints we were receiving seemed to be getting more difficult to resolve. We assumed that the easier, or more straightforward, justified complaints were being settled by councils without the need for our intervention."
This again shows how a Local Government Ombudsman’s beliefs can prejudice a complainants case. She assumed that councils were settling justified complaints. That means she must have thought that any complaint the council didn’t settle were not justified.
Now we know why complainants had so much difficulty in persuading Mrs Thomas that their complaint was justified. I know I did.
Mrs Thomas' article was published in issue 28 April 2006 of the Ombudsman the British and Irish Ombudsman's Association's newsletter.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Although this blog ring is a seperate entity to the Ombudsman Watch web-site I must stress that it is not in competition with it. This blog ring has been set up to provide an additional resource to the web-site. We fully support the Ombudsman Watch web-site. Blogs are just an easy way of allowing supporters to tell their own story or express their own feelings about the LGO.
As far as I am aware when they have listed their FAQs they intend to invite new questions from members of the public. That should be interesting.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Following the LGO’s report VRBC stated that lessons had been learnt and steps would be taken to improve the system. Did the LGO’s intervention bring about an improvement? Did VRBC learn their lesson and improve the system? During 2005/6 I set about trying to find out.
I identified that a local play area (linked to the problems over the previous eight years) should have been completed and handed over to the council before a number of houses on the development were occupied. This planning condition was also secured with a legal agreement between the developer and VRBC. During the spring of 2001 the houses, that were the subject of the planning condition, were sold by the developer and occupied.
During 2005/6 I became suspicious that the play area had still not been handed over to the Council. Using the Freedom of Information Act I identified that the Council were not responsible for maintaining the play area because it was still owned by the developer. I decided to bring the breach of planning condition to the attention of VRBC so they could take enforcement action. In fact I couldn’t understand why they hadn’t taken any action between 2001 and 2006.
VRBC confirmed that the play area was still in private hands and had not yet been handed over to the Council, then provided the most bizarre explanation as to why they hadn’t (and wouldn’t) enforce the breach.
They stated that it was up to the developer to ensure they were not in breach of the agreement by handing over the play area at the appropriate time. In addition, VRBC stated that they were not in a position to know when and if the houses were occupied because that would entail someone from VRBC doing a site visit. I pointed out that the people living in the houses had been paying VRBC council tax for the last 5 years but VRBC staff didn’t understand the irony of what I was saying.
Further evidence to prove my point can be found in the LGO’s latest annual letters to VRBC. The LGO is still critical of planning enforcement at VRBC.
'In the three cases involving the same issue we found that the Council failed to follow up breaches of planning permission with sufficient rigour and failed to keep the complainants fully informed. This is not uncommon nationally and is a general cause for concern. Control of development is important to citizens and if there are breaches in control rigour is needed. The Council has discretion here but cannot abdicate its responsibility. In the particular cases my Investigator was not convinced that the Council really accepted that anything had gone wrong. In one sense it clearly did because it paid out compensation but I trust that the Council has accepted these critical judgements. I would value some assurance on this point and information on action that was intended to improve the Council's performance in this area.'
To my knowledge VRBC have been guilty of ignoring planning breaches for over 16 years and in spite of the LGO’s involvement things have not improved.
So the answer to my question must be, the LGO are a waste of time and public money!
Footnote: VRBC Vale Royal Borough Council has now been replaced with CWaCC Cheshire West and Chester Council. Nothing has changed.
Monday, September 04, 2006
There have been a number of articles in the press recently about councils and they all had three things in common, chief executive officers, money and maladministration.
Could the fact that all three local government ombudsmen are ex council chief executives be the reason why their investigations never expose these things?
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
During the more recent BMG qualitative survey the did exactly the same thing again. The following note is in the BMG report.
'Before writing to selected complainants the LGO cross checked the list of contacts highlighting any cases thought to be unsuitable either on the basis of sensitivity or any other significant problems which staff were aware of.'
The results were bad enough but can you imagine how bad they would have been if they hadn't been allowed to doctor the list.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Q43. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied were you with the final outcome of your complaint - I mean just the actual final outcome of your complaint, and not the overall way in which your complaint was dealt with by the Ombudsman?
Fairly satisfied 9
Very satisfied 13
Fairly dissatisfied 12
Very dissatisfied 61
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 3
No opinion 2
Total number of satisfied complainants 21%
That's nearly three and a half times as many complainants were dissatisfied with the final outcome of their complaint than those who were satisfied.
Did the LGO improve their service or has it got much worse? For some unknown reason they decided against having another quantative survey, so their are no later figures to confirm the answer to that question one way or another.
I think we know the reason why they decided not to have another quantitive survey don't we!
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Local Government Ombudsman state in their latest annual review
‘The average cost per complaint in 2005/06 was £640 . This was 1.9 per cent more than the cost per complaint in 2004/05 when inflation is taken into account. The main reason for this was the increased costs of pension fund and National Insurance contributions’.
1.9% of £640 is only £12.16 and doesn’t seem a lot of money. The truth is that the Local Government Ombudsman dealt with over 18,626 complaints last year and that makes it £226, 492.
Close to quarter of a million pounds just to cover the increased costs of their pensions and national insurance contributions.
The question is why didn’t the Local Government Ombudsman put it that way, did the amount shock them so much that they had to resort to devious tactics to reduce the impact?
Last year some 4954 complaints were categorised as premature by the Local Government Ombudsman. That’s about 27% of all complaints submitted to them.
As far as the Local Government Ombudsman is concerned the definition of a premature complaint is
‘Premature complaints are those which are not accepted for consideration by the Local Government Ombudsmen because the councils concerned have not had a reasonable opportunity to deal with them first. Premature complaints are sent to the councils concerned with a request that they should investigate them. If a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of a council’s investigation, he or she can complain to the Ombudsman again.’ (My Emphasis)
In addition a further 2376 complaints were categorised as outside their jurisdiction. That’s about 13% of all complaints. As far as the Local Government Ombudsman is concerned the definition of a complaint outside their jurisdiction is
‘The Ombudsmen can investigate most types of complaints against local authorities. But there are some things the law does not allow them to investigate, such as personnel matters, the internal management of schools and colleges, and matters which affect all or most of the people living in a council’s area. Such complaints, when they are terminated, are described as being outside jurisdiction.’
That means some 40% of complaints were not valid complaints and should not have been submitted to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The Local Government Ombudsman states
‘The average cost per complaint in 2005/06 was £640 . This was 1.9 per cent more than the cost per complaint in 2004/05 when inflation is taken into account. The main reason for this was the increased costs of pension fund and National Insurance contributions.’ (My emphasis) Worthy of a separate posting?
The question is why do the Local Government Ombudsman include the above when they are nothing more than enquiries.
As a result the real cost of the Local Government Ombudsman is not £640 per complaint as they suggest but closer to £900 per valid complaint. With the average valid complainant getting about £128 as a result of the Local Government Ombudsman’s involvement they are clearly not cost effective.
Don't forget most of the premature complaints costing the Local Government Ombudsman £640 to deal with end up as another complaint after a few months.
'....he or she can complain to the Ombudsman again
Looks like a case of double counting to improve their statistics to me.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
If you would like to read the full text of my article please click here
You can also click the archive link located in the side bar
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
He is on holiday at the moment and has asked me to archive his article. Once he returns home he will also link to his article. In the meantime you can read his article by clicking here or the link in the side bar.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
During 2002 an Assistant Ombudsman simply rang up a County Council Solicitor and accepted everything they said without any sort of validation. The Assistant Ombudsman even refused to tell me what they had discussed. Evidence to prove the Solicitor was misleading him was available but he refused to look at it. Even more worrying, however, is the fact that the Solicitor he talked to was the one I was complaining about. As a result I have been attempting to get the Ombudsman to comeback on my case since 2002. All because the Assistant Ombudsman did not adhere to the rules of natural justice and tried to bury my complaint for benefit of the County Council.
Since May 2006 I have been told that my complaint has now been submitted to the Councils for their formal response. Something that should have happened in 2002 if the Assistant Ombudsman was doing his job properly. To date I am still waiting for the Councils' response. Click here to read my 2002 complaint.
I will post further details when I receive any more news.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Whilst I was waiting for a Google alert, to identify a Council that was using the LGO's annual letter to put a positive spin on their own acts of maladministration, (I decided to use the first Council that Google returned as the basis for my article) I developed the cartoon below to support my article.
I now have the Council's viewpoint from the newspaper article and the LGO's viewpoint from the annual letter they sent to the Council concerned. My article is nearing completion and will be posted in a week or so. It should make interesting reading.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Did they castigate the Councils and inform the public (and Government) that the majority of Councils were ignoring their deadlines, no they just increased the time they gave the Councils so they could statistically argue that the majority were meeting their deadlines.
The tricks the Ombudsmen get up to in order to help their ex colleagues never ceases to amaze me.
Friday, July 28, 2006
'Anecdotally staff are finding a higher proportion of complainants present challenging behaviours'.
I sincerley hope they mean people like me, people who are no longer prepared to accept the perverse policies and dubious tactics they have been getting away with for far too long.
I am not prepared to accept an system that;
is supposed to be impartial but operate a policy of believing everything a Council says,
operates an unfair and unjust internal complaints procedure,
is controlled by ex Council Chief Executive Officers,
has ex Council staff in nearly all senior positions,
buries rather than confronts maladministration,
manipulates statistice to improve public perception of their effectiveness,
manipulates procedures to hide poor decisions.
If they do mean people like me, then let's hope even more people start to present the Ombudsman's staff with challanging behaviour.
The Ombudsman may then have no option but to change the system to one which is fairer to complainants.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
The advert includes the following requirement
'preferably have a minimum of 1 year’s experience of working as a legal assistant for a council'
The LGO now appears to be off limits to anyone who hasn't worked for a council. Just what have they got to hide?
The irony of the situation is that the Ombudsman refused to investigate my complaint because a Council solicitor lied to them. No doubt making them an ideal candidate for the job.
First hand experience stuffing complainants for a Council must make the LGO think they are the best kind of people to stuff complainants for them
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Each posting will have a unique URL so you will be able to link to your posting from any other web-page or blog. In addition you will be able to link from your posting to any other web-page or blog.
Please note the group blog has been integrated with http://www.psow.co.uk/
Trevor R Nunn
Sunday, June 25, 2006
16 years and counting, Vale Royal Borough Council's initial act of maladministration (Plenty more followed).
9 years and counting, Local Government Ombudsman involved in my complaint.
6 years and counting, Cheshire County Council's initial act of maladministration (Plenty more followed.)
4 years and counting, since I submitted a second complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
2 months and counting, since the Ombudsman changed their mind and decided to investigate my second complaint and resolve the problem caused by Vale Royal Borough Council.
A problem that Cheshire County Council has been trying to maladminister their way out of for the last 6 years. Curiously whilst the Ombudsman has also been doing their level best to reject my complaint.
However, when Cheshire County Council finally realise that can't maladminister their way out of the problem, enter stage left the Local Government Ombudsman who now decide they can investigate my complaint after all.
Coincidence or collusion? Is the Ombudsman getting involved to help Cheshire County Council out of their difficulties or are they getting involved because I have suffered injustice through Cheshire County Council’s maladministration?
Only time will tell but it's not looking good so far. They appear more interested in resolving the problem for Cheshire County Council than investigating my complaint. Two months and they still haven't asked the Council for a formal response to the allegations I made during 2002.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Any Council facing a finding of maladministration can buy off the Local Government Ombudsman by promising to pay the complainant a paltry sum.
It works out about £540 per complainant, ironically less than it costs to fund the Ombudsman’s organisation.
However, a less well known fact is that the Local Government Ombudsman often refuses to investigate a complaint in the first place following a similar phone call to the Council.
The Local Government Ombudsman often accepts whatever they are told by the Council and refuse to investigate a complaint further. This happened in the famous Balchins case during 1991 and mine during 2002.
On both occasions the LGO refused to investigate a valid complaint because they wrongly accepted the word of a Council without validation. Worse still they won’t even look at any evidence that contradicts the assertions of the Council.
Most people would consider that as unfair, unjust and just plain wrong. However, the real shock comes when you find that this has in fact been a long standing policy of the Ombudsmen.
Between 1991 and 2002 the Ombudsman has handled in excess of 100,000 complaints. How many other complainants have been the victims of this bizarre and unfair policy?
It is high time Local Government Ombudsmen scrapped this flawed policy and started investigating complaints of maladministration properly.
If the Local Government Ombudsman refused to investigate your complaint you may well have been a victim of this unfair policy. If you think you are then I suggest that you try to do something about it.
There are a number of options available, you could do one or more of the following, submit a comeback request, submit a new complaint, submit an internal complaint, let your MP know about this unfair policy, publicise the fact that you have suffered as a result of this unfair policy, write a blog about your own experience, write an open letter to the Ombudsmen or submit evidence the next time a select committee (or some other body) investigates the Ombudsmen.
You may even have another way of exposing this bizarre and unfair policy, if you have please let me know.
Local Government Ombudsmen have introduced numerous flawed policies over the years. The reason they did this was to reduce the perceived level of maladministration by Local Authorities.
In the short term this perverse strategy has helped the Government, their ex colleagues in Local Authorities, and themselves. The only people it didn’t help were members of the general public who suffered injustice because of Local Authority maladministration.
However, there is a down side; whilst it is true that this strategy has reduced the perceived level of Local Authority maladministration it has also been responsible for increasing true levels of Local Authority maladministration. Hence the Ombudsman’s continued reliance on the introduction of more and more of these flawed policies.
This all stems from the Ombudsmen’s original decision to take the easy option. It is far easier for the Ombudsman to ignore maladministration than deal with it. However, maladministration is now getting out of hand and the Ombudsmen can no longer bury it fast enough. Furthermore, people like myself are no longer willing to stand idly by whilst the Local Government Ombudsmen terminate their complaints for a variety of ludicrous and unjust reasons.
The irony of the situation is that the Local Government Ombudsmen are guilty of maladministration. Instead of concentrating on doing their job they chose the easy option, initially this just involved looking the other way, however, for the last few years they have actively been burying maladministrationfor their ex colleagues in Local Authorities.
The results of this absurd strategy are now coming home to roost and it's about time the Government to do something about it. Spin and fiddled statistics can no longer hide the truth.
What the Local Government Ombudsmen appeared to have overlooked was the simple fact that their strategy would actually encourage rather than prevent maladministration.
The bottom line is if there is now no effective deterrent to curb Local Authorities who attempt to maladminister their way out of their problems. Hence the year on year increase in the true levels of maladministration and the fact that Local Authority maladministration is reaching epidemic proportions.
Parallels can be drawn from the police and the judiciary, when they go soft on crime, it increases.
It's not rocket science it's just common sense, however, that's something our politicians appear be sadly lacking in these days.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
One newspaper suggests it is an OBE whilst another suggests it is a CBE.
Services to Local Government?
Must be a euphemism for burying complaints about Local Government maladministration.
Friday, June 09, 2006
This post attempts to explore the murky world of Local Settlements.
Ombudsmanwatch supporters are already aware that the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) uses a number of highly dubious methods to significantly reduce the chance of a local authority ever being found guilty of maladministration in the first place. Although these methods block over 70% of complaints, some 28% of complaints still manage find there way through leaving the LGO with little choice but to make a finding of maladministration.
Therefore, what the LGO, and Local Authorities, needed was another way to further reduce the number of cases of maladministration they have to publicly report.
To understand how the LGO and Local Authorities pull off this trick one must enter the magical world of the LGO.
When is a finding of maladministration not a finding of maladministration; when it’s a ‘local settlement’ of course.
The local settlement illusion allows Local Authorities to reduce the number of findings of maladministration against them by a factor of about 18. All a Local Authority has to do to block a finding of maladministration is to offer a local settlement and the LGO, like all good magicians, will magically make the finding of maladministration disappear.
The LGO changes their definition of ‘local settlements’ on a regular basis. This makes it more difficult for people to realise they are being conned or to do anything about it when they do. It is very difficult to argue against a ‘local settlement’ because the definition you think you are arguing against will suddenly change. In essence the LGO manipulate the definition of words such as ‘local settlement’, ‘maladministration’, ‘significant’ and ‘material’ to suit their own ends, hence their fear of the Government introducing statutory definitions.
However I believe the LGO has no express or implied statutory power to implement Local Settlements and this article sets out to prove my point. If I am right they are illegal and the LGO’s actions are ultra vires – ‘beyond the legal power or authority of a person or official or body’ and as a result the LGO is guilty of malfeasance ‘Misconduct or wrongdoing, especially by a public official.’
To illustrate my arguments it is essential to start by identifying the relevant parts of the Local Government Act, which gives the LGO their statutory powers. Please note without statutory powers the LGO would have no more power than a member of the general public.
The 1974 Local Government Act established the Local Government Ombudsman. Section 26 (1) expressly gives the LGO the power to investigate a complaint. stating ‘Subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act where a written complaint is made by or on behalf of a member of the public who claims to have sustained injustice in consequence of maladministration in connection with action taken by or on behalf of an authority to which this Part of this Act applies, being action taken in the exercise of administrative functions of that authority, a Local Commissioner may investigate that complaint.’
Whilst section 26 (10) expressly gives the LGO discretion regarding investigations. In determining whether to initiate, continue or discontinue an investigation, a Local Commissioner shall, subject to the preceding provisions of this section, act at discretion; and any question whether a complaint is duly made under this Part of this Act shall be determined by the Local Commissioner.
At the outset I accept that section 26 (1) and (10) expressly and clearly give the LGO the discretionary power to investigate a complaint. That is not at issue. What is at issue are the following points.
Argument number 1. Reading the relevant parts of the 1974 Local Government Act in full, you will discover a number of sections devoted to investigations and a number of sections devoted to reports. Interestingly you will find no section devoted to local settlements.
Therefore there is clearly no express provision for Local Settlements within the act. Leaving the LGO relying on an implied provision to support their use of Local Settlements.
However, the word investigation occurs some 42 times and the word report occurs some 39 times whilst the word ‘settlement’ does not occur at all, making it very difficult to argue that the LGO has the implied power use Local Settlements.
Argument number 2. Over the last few years we have seen a gradual move towards a unified Public Ombudsman services. Whilst the English LGO still labours under the old 1974 Local Government Act, Scotland and Wales have already introduced a new unified Public Ombudsman systems. In the Welsh Ombudsman Act of 2005 the Welsh Ombudsman has expressly been given a new and additional statutory power,
Alternative resolution of complaints
(1) The Ombudsman may take any action he thinks appropriate with a view to resolving a complaint which he has power to investigate under section 2.
(2) The Ombudsman may take action under this section in addition to or instead of conducting an investigation into the complaint.
(3) Any action under this section must be taken in private.
If the LGO for Wales already had the power to locally settle a complaint why do they need this new express power to resolve a complaint. Could it be because the LGO for Wales like the LGO for England never had the power to locally settle a complaint and the Government is attempting to plug this legal loophole?
If so then the English LGO have not yet been given this additional power and are, therefore, acting illegally every time they resolve a complaint with a Local Settlement.
Argument number 3. A settlement is a popular method of ending a civil court case. The legal definition to a settlement being the resolution of a dispute prior to the rendering of a final decision by the trial court . The two parties can agree to settle the case at any time, until of course the Judge finds in favour of one party or the other. In fact the majority of civil cases are settled out of court to save the time, trouble, expense and risk of proceeding with court action. In essence a settlement is an agreement between the two parties. In most cases this involves the defence making an offer the plaintiff can’t refuse resulting in the case being dropped before judgement is delivered.
Clearly settlements have major benefits for both parties and the courts. If settlements have benefits for all parties involved why are LGO Local Settlements so wrong. The answer to that is because they are not really settlements as most people understand them at all. They are a settlement between the Local Authority and the LGO, the complainant has no say in the matter.
This brings us back to the magical world of the LGO. There is no point in the LGO telling the truth and stating that they have decided to hide a finding of maladministration for the benefit of a Local Authority, what they need is the illusion that the case has been settled in advance of them finding maladministration.
How does the LGO give the illusion a case has been locally settled, easy they just say so.
Anyone could be mistaken for assuming this meant that the case had been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. However, they would be wrong.
Firstly the LGO does not use the word settlement in isolation they nearly always use the term ‘local settlement’ However, there is no legal definition of ‘local settlement’. Therefore we must look at the two words in isolation. Legally the normal literal rule is applied to the definition of words.
The terms Government and Local Government are a clear example of the normal use of the word local. However, I believe the LGO wrongly uses the word ‘local’ to imply that the complaint was settled locally by both parties. In reality, however, many cases are settled at the request of the Local Authority and with the agreement of the LGO without the agreement of the complainant. In those circumstances that makes the use of the word ‘local’ wholly erroneous and misleading. The LGO can hardly be termed a local organisation.
Argument number 4. The Local Government Ombudsman have a comeback procedure that allows them to investigate a complaint, that they had previously refused to investigate, should any one of four criteria be met. The comeback procedure not available if the Ombudsman has already produced a report on the matter.
However, when the Ombudsman and the Council locally settle a case without the agreement of the complainant they don’t usually issue a report. That means that the complainant is technically free to request comeback on a case that, as far as the Ombudsman and the Council are concerned, has been settled. If a normal all party settlement had been reached that would clearly be impossible. The fact that it is technically possible with a local settlement provides evidence that they are just a dubious device to bury maladministration rather than fully and finally settle a complaint.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
‘If a complaint is reopened after a comeback then it is indeed given a separate reference number but there is a very clear instruction (which is complied with) that only one complaint will count for statistical purposes. In other words there is no double counting.’
However, in the letter they sent the Council, regarding the same matter, it clearly states,
‘The Commission will include this in the published figures for the year ending 31 March 2006. We will record the decision as: Insufficient evidence of maladministration.’
Unequivocal evidence that they double count complaint comebacks to improve their statistics no matter what they say.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I was very disappointed that an elected representative could not help one of his constituents who was suffering significant injustice as a result of the maladministration of an unaccountable none elected public authority.
If MPs aren’t interested in protected their constituents from injustice caused by unaccountable and none elected authority then who is? MPs collectively gave these unaccountable authorities the statutory power to ruin peoples lives, so you would think they could remove those powers when they are being abused.
As a result, with a few exceptions, I now have no time for MPs. There is, however, one MP who I consider an exception to the rule and that’s the MP who supported the Balchins during their long fight for justice. Just a pity MPs of that calibre are so few and far between.
If that is the power of a Blog then I recommend it to all.
On the downside, I have had many false promises in the past so I will have to wait and see if my complaint is actually investigated and resolved or if this is just another devious tactic to shut me up.
I will post updates of their progress and also continue to post comments on associated problems.
Watch this space!
Monday, May 29, 2006
In the article he makes the following statement
‘Complainants and Councils have an opportunity to comment on information which will be relied upon to reach a decision and have their comments taken into account.’
However, an Assistant Ombudsman terminated my 2002 complaint based on a private telephone call he had with the Council. I have never been told what was said or given the opportunity to comment on the information that the Assistant Ombudsman used when he reached the decision not to investigate my complaint.
Question to the Ombudsman, did the Assistant Ombudsman fail to follow procedure or is Bob Draper’s statement untrue? One of them is guilty of maladministration, which one and what do you propose to do about it?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
During 2005 an Investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated
‘..they’ve introduced this performance related pay; it came in for the first time last year and the investigators, I have to say we said it would influence the decision making process. We were not listened to. I mean that’s the top and bottom of it. But you know it has inevitably; I mean the government accepts that it has. But it was accepted that the upside is greater than that marginal downside, I think it’s a fact of life with which we all have to live nowadays…’
Now we know why decisions are rushed and they don’t like comebacks.
‘Marginal downside’, just a few hundred lives ruined because the system now allows investigators without integrity to make more money by reaching a quick decision rather than investigating a complaint properly.
‘I think it’s a fact of life with which we all have to live nowadays’ they live with their bonus, the government lives with a greater throughput of cases, the councils live with fewer findings of maladministration whilst the poor old complainant has to live with the suffering that it causes, very equitable.
A win, win, win, stuff the complainant fact of life? All thanks to the Ombudsman.
‘..when you comeback on an investigation you say you think the outcome is unsatisfactory it is looked at again but very briefly by a Deputy and by the Ombudsman and although Mrs Thomas will amend letters and may spot something that has been missed by and large she will look to a summary which has been prepared by the initial investigating officer.’ (My emphasis) ‘…it’s a paper exercise and inevitably they are going to draw on their comments the opinions.’
So the investigator, who took the initial decision not to investigate your complaint, is solely responsible for preparing the summary that the Ombudsman uses to decide whether the investigators decision was flawed. At least we now know why comebacks are so rare.
The same investigator also stated
‘You do raise a very valid point that when you came back in the spring of 2002 you did bring new information and it should have generated a new inquiry.’
‘I don’t quite understand why we did not re open the investigation in 2002’
Neither do I, and four years later the Ombudsman still refuses to answer that very question.
Although the Ombudsman refuses to answer my questions the investigator stated at the time,
‘I am concerned here that you’re at the risk of being disadvantaged through not being given reasons to which I actually think your entitled’
How true, the problem is that we have an Ombudsman who is not the least bit interested in procedural fairness, natural justice or the rights of the individual. All they are interested in is burying maladministration for their friends and ex collegues in local government.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
‘You know honestly in my years at the commission I have never come across another situation like this. That is why I have had to go and look to find out exactly why we have held the line on not issuing it as a re launched comeback. Because I have been arguing I can’t see the logic of why we are doing this.’
No, neither could I, however, it is now 2006 and the Ombudsman still refuses to comeback on my complaint!
The Honourable Mr Justice Lightman gave a lecture during March 2001. Although his lecture was essentially about the Pensions Ombudsman many of the issues he addressed are valid for all Public Sector Ombudsmen including the Local Government Ombudsman.
'the Ombudsman clearly has his own evangelical agenda which he takes his every opportunity to take a high profile stance to propagate not least through his lectures and Annual reports. As is clear from the quotations from his statements which I have already made, he respects none of the constraints to be expected of a judicial officer respecting decisions made by superior courts, but conducts campaigns in furtherance of his ideas casting ridicule on those members of the judiciary who have the temerity to disagree with him. Respectfully I would venture the comment: few postures are so unbecoming as a judge whatever his level in the judicial hierarchy for ever in the missionary position. This must give him the appearance of being, if he is not thereby constituted, an interested party in his own decisions. The obviation of this cloud must be a further factor favouring transferring the adjudicatory role to a Tribunal.'
The Local Government Ombudsmen also have their own evangelical agenda,
Extracts from the Local Government Ombudsman corporate plan 2006 to 2009, Maximise positive publicity............prompt response to negative publicity. Conducting a campaign in furtherance of their ideas?
In essence they carefully select the few complaints which they believe will enhance their reputation whilst burying the other 99% of complaints submitted to them.
'The European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act give greater significance and attention to the legal process and its adequacy to afford a fair trial. It is the duty of the State to provide such a process: it is no longer sufficient to require the public to make do with a procedure which falls short but affords something better than nothing. There are serious questions whether proceedings before the Ombudsman meet the requirements satisfactorily;'
'..the existing judicial jurisdiction of the Ombudsman raises serious questions regarding compliance with the Human Rights Act and (for this and other reasons) should be transferred to a tribunal; and that the constitution of the tribunal should be such that as to make available all necessary expertise not present in proceedings before the Ombudsman...'
‘I think there is a short coming sometimes in just the way our system works and that there is a tendency often not to…I mean well I have been criticised myself by… the Ombudsman in the past for giving too detailed reasons to complainants because that can be a hostage to fortune and indeed it can.’
Now we know why they don’t give adequate reasons to support their decisions. As one Judge put it, the failure to give adequate reasoning in support of a decision is a de facto denial of a Judicial Review.
(Investigator's comments) (Me)
‘…this is the rub, when it is registered as a re launched comeback on our computer systems, it opens up the whole field of the complaint now your initial complaint and I’ve got the file here, I don’t have the original file but I think the report was dated 97 but your original complaint came in 1997 and that would have the effect of looking, as far as our statistics are concerned, which I always find terribly tedious, but we’ve got to have all these returns for the government, we have certain targets one of which is that we have to discontinue investigations, or 98 percent of investigations within a year, your investigation would look as though it had been ongoing for about 7 years wouldn’t it’ ‘well it has’ ‘sorry’ ‘well it has’ ‘it has, it absolutely has …… one complaint effectively that distorts all of your figures, because it is so much longer than all the others you know it pulls your general averages down,’
Yet another reason why they won’t comeback on a complaint, it pulls their averages down;
'Well the, the horrible thing about statistics, about the government’s targets, and I’ve seen this in other area’s apart from the Ombudsman office, and it’s true in the prison service, it’s true in all of the public services, that the work is skewed to meet the statistics. (My emphasis)
They do I think influence decisions that you make, they influence the daily lives of investigators, without a doubt'
Now we know why they won’t comeback on complaints and prefer instead to register them as new complaints. That devious ‘skewing’ tactic generates two positive ticks on their stats instead of one negative tick because they had to comeback on a bad decision.
During 2005 an investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman stated ‘.....the council wrote back and actually informed Mrs Thomas's decision that there was no more for her.’
‘I have to smile actually that some of the criticisms that Mr Nunn makes, he has obviously researched our procedures, some of the criticisms he makes actually make me smile because they are criticisms that I have made internally myself.’
‘The remedy that was offered to you at the end of that report was not exactly what she wanted she felt it was reduced by the Ombudsman. I mean it was outside ****’s powers completely but she felt that the remedy was not satisfactory’
(**** I removed the name of the individual)
Now we know that the Ombudsmen dilute the remedies suggested by investigators to make them more palatable for their friends in the Council.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
However, my arguments is that people, not systems, make systems work.
As one example, the Ombudsmen usually suggest that the 1974 Local Authority Act gave them the discretion that allows them to introduce Local Settlements. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant to my argument because even if the Act gave them the discretion they suggest, it still only unlocked the door. The Ombudsmen still had a choice in the matter. They made the decision to go through the door and introduce local settlements. It had nothing to do with the system or the 1974 Local Government Act.
In essence the Ombudsman found a loophole and exploited it by introducing local settlements for the benefit of everyone bar the complainant. The Ombudsmen win because they can terminate cases without having to do much work, the Councils love it because they can hide from the reality of their maladministration and it suits the Government because it keeps costs down and hides the fact that there are serious problems within Local Government.
The point is that no system is perfect and some people will, if they want to, always find a loophole that allows them to exploit the system for their own ends. So yes Government could close the odd loophole by tinkering with the system but whilst the culture within the Ombudsman’s organisation remains the same nothing will really change.
Furthermore, the system worked reasonably well in the early days, it is only over the last 15 years that Local Government Ombudsmen have exploited loopholes in the system for the benefit of themselves and their colleagues in Government. (Local and National).
Looking at another example, just because the system didn’t make Local Government Ombudsmen accountable doesn’t mean that they have to exploit the fact to ruin peoples lives. They had a choice. Just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean you have to do it.
The same can be said about the Council’s freedom to ignore the Ombudsman’s findings, that could be classed as a system deficiency, however, the Ombudsmen could, if they had wanted to, done something about it years ago. The point is they didn’t.
That brings me back to my argument, it’s people that make systems work, people that exploit systems and people that make systems fail.
Friday, May 19, 2006
One of the original problems facing the Local Government Ombudsmen was what to do if a Council refused to provide a remedy for maladministration. The Council have always been able to ignore the Ombudsman and the best that the Ombudsman could do was to issue another report.
Over the years the Ombudsmen could have asked the Government to make their findings enforceable in law, however, they chose instead to develop a devious strategy to ensure that the majority of Councils accept their findings.
They just make it easier for a Council to accept their findings than the alternative. Unfortunately, when the only alternative is the threat of a second report it doesn’t leave a lot of manoeuvring room to make their findings more palatable than that.
That’s why an Ombudsman’s award, for a complainant suffering injustice through maladministration, is on average only about £500. Probably a lot less than the cost to the council of publishing a second report.
Can you imagine the uproar if a Judge had to negotiate a prison sentence with the guilty party knowing that they could ignore the sentence if they didn’t like it. That would put the Judge in an impossible position to pass an appropriate sentence. Prison sentences would drop from years to hours overnight.
Can you imagine the uproar if a Traffic warden had to negotiate the price of a parking ticket with the offending party, knowing that they could ignore the ticket if they didn’t like it. Parking fines would drop from £40 to 20p overnight.
Many people suggest that the Ombudsman’s findings should be made mandatory. My question is, why haven’t the Ombudsman asked the Government to give them the statutory powers they need to be effective? They have had the last thirty years to do so. Obviously they must prefer to be toothless tigers.
Now who's the sucker!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The purpose of this posting is to illustrate that many of the Local Government Ombudsman's (LGO) decisions are unlawful because they have misused their discretionary powers.
Background to the LGO’s discretionary power
The Local Government Act 1974 gave the LGO a statutory discretion whether or not to initiate or terminate a complaint of maladministration.
The reasons why the LGO needs discretion is obvious and numerous and I have no argument with that providing the LGO exercise this legally, fairly and for the right reasons.
What is discretion?
One dictionary defines discretion as, ‘the power of a judge or public official to make decisions on various matters based on his/her opinion within general legal guidelines.’
How does the law interpret discretion
Public bodies, including the LGO, must correctly understand and apply the law, including the Human Rights Act, that regulates their decision making powers. Furthermore, an action or decision may be unlawful if the decision maker had no power to make it or exceeded the powers given to him/her. The LGO’s discretion must be used within their express statutory authority.
It is a general maxim of the law that a statutory body cannot extend their statutory powers through the use of discretionary powers.
In addition public bodies also have to be fair. This deals with the process for reaching an unbiased decision and includes the right to a fair hearing. The courts have also recently extended the idea of fairness to prevent abuses of power where public bodies have sought to go back, without sufficient justification, on promises made (called 'legitimate expectations').
When do the LGO misuse their discretionary power.
The LGO misuse their discretionary powers for a number of reasons but none so blatantly offensive than their discretionary use of ‘local settlements'. I believe this is an unlawful exercise of their discretionary power. Therefore, I have decided to focus on that to illustrate my arguments.
The 1974 Local Government Act gives the LGO no express statutory power to implement or use ‘local settlements’. In fact it makes no mention of ‘local settlement’ or settlement at all. When challenged the LGO states that their discretionary power gives them the authority to implement and use ‘local settlements’.
I believe this is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, The 1974 Act gives the LGO the express statutory authority to investigate a complaint about injustice caused by maladministration. In addition the 1974 Act also gives the LGO the statutory discretion to investigate or not investigate as they see fit. and to terminate an investigation for any reason.
With such wide discretionary powers, it would appear, superficially at least, that their assertions that ‘their discretionary powers give them the statutory power to use ‘local settlements’ would be difficult to disprove.
However, when you start to look a little deeper you realise that their assertions are just an illusion. They have and have never had the authority, discretionary or otherwise to implement and use ‘local settlements’.
There is no argument that the LGO have the right to terminate an investigation for any reason. In fact I can think of numerous reasons why they would need such a discretionary power. The two parties may have mutually agreed to settle, making the investigation somewhat redundant. It may become obvious during an investigation that the complaint was malicious or vexatious. The public authority may hold their hand up and admit their guilt, again making the investigation somewhat redundant. The list goes on and on.
However, the LGO also terminate an investigation because of what they deviously call a ‘local settlement. The point I want to make here is that a ‘local settlement’ is agreed between the LGO and the Council, the complainant has no say in the matter. So in essence the LGO are creating the reason for terminating an investigation.
My first argument is quite simple, the 1974 Local Government Act gives the LGO the statutory discretion to terminate an investigation for any reason but it does not give them the discretionary power to create a reason for terminating an investigation. It would be a different matter if the Council and the Complainant agreed to settle the case.
Therefore, by creating the reason for terminating an investigation they have exceeded their statutory powers. Remember what I stated earlier, an action or decision may be unlawful if the decision maker had no power to make it or exceeded the powers given to him/her.
Now lets turn to fairness. The Council can agree to a ‘local settlement’ or not, however, the complainant has no say in the matter. If the LGO says so they must accept the termination of their complaint through a local settlement.
My second argument is about the unfairness of the discretionary use of ‘local settlements’. The courts have recently extended the idea of fairness to prevent abuses of power where public bodies have sought to go back, without sufficient justification, on promises made (called 'legitimate expectations').
The 1974 Local Government Act states that the LGO can investigate a complaint about injustice caused by maladministration, so I can well understand a complainant having the ‘legitimate expectation’ that the LGO will do exactly that.
The 1974 Local Government Act also give the LGO the discretion to terminate a complainant so I can well understand a complainant having the ‘legitimate expectation’ that their complaint may be terminated.
However, nowhere in the 1974 Local Government Act does it state or imply that the LGO may create the reason for terminating an investigation. In essence, the complainant expects one thing and the LGO give them another.
My third argument is about the LGO fettering their discretion. The LGO has a discretionary comeback procedure. Essentially this states that if no report has been issued and one of the comeback criteria is met than the LGO can comeback on a complaint.
The problem is that the LGO and Council agree a settlement. That saves the LGO the time and trouble of investigating and as a result no report is issued. However, that leaves the complainant free to request comeback on their complaint. So my argument is straight forward, the use of ‘local settlements’ must fetter the LGO discretion when it comes to Comeback.
If a complaint has been ‘locally settled’ how can the LGO comeback on the complaint. The answer is they can’t. They have made a deal with the Council so they cannot comeback on a complaint they have settled. However, they did not settle it with the complainant so the complainant is free to request comeback. A conundrum the LGO overcomes by fettering the use of their discretionary power regarding comeback on a complaint.