Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Poacher turned gamekeeper?

Or in reality just a poacher turning a blind eye to their ex colleagues nocturnal activities?

Can you imagine what the police force would be like if the majority of senior staff were recruited from the very people they were supposed to be investigating for wrongdoings?

Well that is exactly what has happened with the Local Government Ombudsman’s organisation. All three of the English Local Government Ombudsmen are ex Council Chief Executive Officers. Many of their senior staff are also ex Council.

One of the main arguments in defence of this ludicrous situation is that the Local Government Ombudsman needs experience and insight into the organisations that they have to investigate.

However, if you extrapolate that argument only murderers could catch murderers and only poachers could catch poachers. I doubt an investigator working in the CID or a Gamekeeper would subscribe to that theory. Will the Government be replacing Sir Ian Blair with an Eastern Block gang leader in their fight against crime? Will the next prison chief be an ex inmate?

Further evidence of the Local Government Ombudsman’s true allegiance can be found by analysing their statistics.

In reality nearly 30% of all complaints are as a result of maladministration yet only 1.6% of all complaints are reported as such. The other 28% are listed as local settlements. This is a dubious practice, introduced after the Councils effectively took control of the Local Government Ombudsman’s organisation, to hide the true level of maladministration. As a result there is now no deterrent to discourage maladministration. In reality the policies of the current Ombudsmen positively encourage councils to maladminister.

Firstly, there is every chance that they will get away with maladministration because not everyone complains. Secondly, one way or another, the Ombudsman will help them bury the majority of complaints submitted to them (98.4%) and thirdly, even in the unlikely event of the Ombudsman actually finding them guilty of maladministration (1.6%) the council can just ignore it.

My case is an example of that scenario. I would estimate that in less than 1% of all cases does a Council provide a remedy following an Ombudsman’s report. (This is estimated because even the Ombudsman does not keep a record.) At worse there may be a few lines in a local newspaper outlining the case. Even the script writers working on Monty Python would have turned the idea down as being too surreal.

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