Friday, December 25, 2009

Want a New Year resolution? Say no, no, no to the LGO

A Jerry White Free Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009

Xmas message from the LGO


Christmas message from me: Expanding the remit of a demonstrably failing institution (The LGO) may prolong its life in the short term but in doing so it will just expose their failings to a wider audience thus adding to the certainty of its demise.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Anger Management

2009 legal review awards 'Anger Management' "in response to the incompetence of a public authority. In his judgement criticising Orkney Island Council and Cambridgeshire County Council for their failures to give priority to the needs of a very vulnerable child, he revealed that he “found it necessary to adjourn the hearing briefly so as to ensure that no wholly improper judicial observations escaped my lips”, and he had not given his judgement immediately “because I did not trust myself to express my views in a temperate manner”. More awards here


38 complaints not 1 report of maladministration!

Accordingly many people have to ensure no wholly improper observations about the LGO escape their lips.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Over 98% of people who voted think the current LGO should resign


In a recent poll I conducted I asked the following question
Do you think the current Local Government Ombudsmen should resign?

321 people said yes whilst only 5 said no. I also know three of those who said no were council staff because I monitored the IP address of all those who voted.

Unlike the Local Government Ombudsmen I did not exclude those who may have said no. Whilst in their last survey the Local Government Ombudsmen excluded 14% of the people who may have given them a bad review in order to enhance the outcome in their favour.
Message to the Government

Over 98% of people who voted think the current Local Government Ombudsmen should resign.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Why don't the LGO resign as well?

The chairman of the health and social care regulator, which was branded "toothless" after a report in to hospital standards, is to resign.

Baroness Young will leave her position with the Care and Quality Commission (CQC) in February of next year. Full story here.


Local Government Ombudsmen are well known "toothless tigers" so why don't they resign as well?
In addition to being "toothless" watchdogs, Ofsted, LGO, CQC and others all meekly accept everything the authority they are supposed to be monitoring tells them. Without any prudent validation of what they are being told. Until of course a Baby P or Basildon hits the press then they all start protecting their backsides and running for cover. Just look at what happened in Ofsted after Haringey and Baby P and what is happening in CGC after Basildon NHS.
The Government needs to sack the lot of them and start again with fully accountable watchdogs who don't pervert their mandate so they can protect the authorities instead of the victims of authority wrongdoing.
If public authority watchdogs protected the victims rather than the authority it is very likely that the horrific tragedies at Haringey and Basildon could have been avoided.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Petition to the Queen

I am now completing my personal petition to the Queen asking her to remove the two remaining ex council chief executive officer Local Government Ombudsmen from office for misbehaviour. The relevant part of the 1974 Local Government Act Part III Section 23 (4)

'Appointments to the office of Commissioner shall be made by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Secretary of State after consultation with [such persons as appear to the Secretary of State to represent authorities in England or, as the case may be, authorities in Wales to which this Part of this Act applies], and a person so appointed shall, subject to subsection (6) below, hold office during good behaviour'.

Although I doubt she will actually remove them from office, I have collected enough evidence to make someone in Government, particularly the Secretary of State, think twice about scrutinising them somewhat closer than they have ever been scrutinised before.

Like all letters to the Queen, Government, MPs and the press and blogs, websites and forums, individually they may appear to have a negligible affect but together they can and eventually will make a difference. The current corrupt system of administrative justice must be improved and that process can only begin when all ex council chief executive officer Local Government Ombudsmen are removed from office.

Message to all those who have suffered injustice at the hands of the Local Government Ombudsman: I am doing my bit, are YOU doing yours?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When is a statute not a statute?

I have just had to submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner as a result of my Freedom of information request about the number of Section 32(3) notices Birmingham City Council has served on the Local Government Ombudsman over the last 5 years.

As readers will know I have submitted this request to every English Council but Birmingham City Council's refusal to give me the information stands head and shoulders above other council's ridiculous excuses for not supplying the information.

Whilst most councils use costs as a basis for not supplying the information Birmingham City Council now suggest that a 1974 Local Government Act Part III Section 32(3) notice is not a statutory notice at all, it is merely a letter to the Ombudsman.

Now a statute is simply a law enacted by legislation. The legislation in question is the 1974 Local Government Act. Therefore, a Section 32(3) notice has legal effect, it is not merely a letter to an Ombudsman, it is a legal notice forcing the Ombudsman to comply.

If you live in Birmingham may I suggest that next time you receive a parking ticket you suggest to the council that it was merely a letter to the driver of the car and as such has no legal standing. Then see what they have to say.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Call for further evidence: Cost of investigating your complaint.

My FOI request

I would like to know on what date,

1) the Commission for Local Administration in England started to factor in the likely cost of an investigation into their decision whether to investigate a complaint or not?

2) you made the department of Communities and Local Government aware that you were no longer deciding to investigate complaints based on merit alone?

3) you made complainants aware that the decision to investigate their complaint would no longer be made on merit alone?

LGO response

The answers to the questions you pose in your email of 11 September, are:
1. The Commission does not do this, so there is no date.
2. Never (see above).
3. Never (see above).

Extracts from two letters sent by the York office to two complainants

Mr Hobbs, Assistant Ombudsman, York LGO office:
'Of course the Ombudsman [Mrs Seex] does not condone any council or its officers flouting policies or the law but what she does do is consider whether it is in the public interest and whether it is a good use of scarce public resources to pursue complaints about council officer conduct as opposed to complaints about more substantive maladministration causing injustice.' [My annotation] [My Bolding]

Mrs Seex, Ombudsman (Commissioner for Local Administration in England) , York LGO office:
'I cannot always justify the public expense of becoming involved in every complaint that has been made to me.' [My Bolding]

My call for further evidence

If you have a letter from a Local Government Ombudsman's (Commissioner for Local Administration in England) office which includes evidence that they took costs into account before deciding whether to investigate your complaint please send me details.

Monday, November 16, 2009

LGO caught out lying again (Update)

Further to my initial and second post on the subject, I have now secured additional evidence to prove that either an Ombudsman has been lying to the Commission for Local Administration (CLAE) for the last few months or the CLAE were lying to me in their response to the Freedom of Information request that I submitted on the 11th September 2009. Reproduced below.

I would like to know on what date,

1) the Commission for Local Administration in England started to factor in the likely cost of an investigation into their decision whether to investigate a complaint or not?

2) you made the department of Communities and Local Government aware that you were no longer deciding to investigate complaints based on merit alone?

3) you made complainants aware that the decision to investigate their complaint would no longer be made on merit alone?

This is the response I received from the Commission for Local Administratiopn on the 5th October 2009

The answers to the questions you pose in your email of 11 September, are:
1. The Commission does not do this, so there is no date.
2. Never (see above).
3. Never (see above).

My response to this is, well one of your Commissioners did, see my earlier post and I now have additional evidence to prove they still do. So who is telling the truth an who is lying?

Let's see if I can find out who...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Local Government Ombudsmen: Update

With other supporters I have been collecting and disseminating evidence against Local Government Ombudsmen for the last few years. During this period the Local Government Ombudsmen have been forced to make many changes to their working practices in order to deflect criticism.

Here are just a couple of examples:
  • Over the last few years we have been heavily criticising the fact that all three Local Government were ex council Chief Executive Officers. Recently, when Jerry White retired they recruited a replacement who had not been an ex Chief Executive Officer.
  • We also criticised Local Settlements to such an extent that the Government had to introduce a new statutory provision to legalise the Local Government Ombudsman's use of Local Settlements.
There are many more examples of how Local Government Ombudsmen have had to change their working practices over the last few years in order to deflect criticism however that is not the main purpose of this post, what I want to concentrate on the things they haven't yet improved.

The list below is a collection of things I have either experienced or have evidence of regarding the organisation of the Local Government Ombudsman.

They
  • lie to complainants
  • lie to Government Departments.
  • lie to the public.
  • collude with councils.
  • fabricate documents.
  • misinterpret statutes, policies, guides etc in favour of the council.
  • manipulate evidence in favour of the council.
  • use fallacious reasoning/argument to explain their perverse findings.
  • don't allow a complainant to see or challenge much of the evidence.
  • manipulate/fiddle their statistics to hide the truth.
  • manipulate/fiddle customer satisfaction surveys in their favour.
  • are biased in favour of the council.
  • don't understand many of the technical and legal issues surrounding a complaint.
  • ignore legal and human rights.
  • very rarely criticise any council officer for lying or misleading them.
  • allow councils to misuse 1974 LG Act part III, section 32(3) notices.
  • very rarely admit their mistakes. Often doing a 'Balchins' (1) to avoid their mistakes becoming public knowledge.
  • often terminate a complaint after a quick telephone conversation with the council.
  • are unaccountable.
  • are not fit for the purpose.
  • constantly raise the level of injustice a complainant has to suffer before they will investigate a complaint.
  • often use linguistic gymnastics to evade the truth.
  • use delay as a tactical tool to help councils and exhaust other avenues of possible redress.
  • attack the complainant for asking a question rather than answering the question.
  • misuse their own policy and guidelines.
  • ignore natural justice and the law when it suits them.
  • misuse discretion.
  • are toothless tigers.
  • dilute the remedies they recommend after discussion with a council.
  • defy logic.
  • double, and in some cases triple, count complaints to artificially boost complaint numbers.
  • label complainants unreasonable when they challenge their perverse findings.
  • alter deadlines to make it easier for councils to meet them.
  • waste taxpayer's money.
  • didn't meet the criteria for membership of the British and Irish Ombudsman's Association.
  • are ineffective in reducing maladministration.
  • betray the good citizens of this country.
  • are impotent.
  • allow councils to swap Ombudsmen the don't like but don't allow complainants the same freedom.
  • are guilty of mission creep. They are no longer the same organisation as intended when they were introduced.
  • often use argumentum verbosium.
  • ignore inconvenient facts.
  • have developed a system in which maladministration pays.
  • fail to meet complainant expectations.
  • often ignore part of a complaint altogether.
  • break their promises.
  • fail to keep adequate records.
and
  • their investigators get a bonus the quicker they close a complaint down.
  • the majority of their investigators, assistant ombudsmen and deputy ombudsmen are ex council.
(1) When they realised they had made a mistake with the Balchin's case they only reported events back to the year after they had made their mistake in an attempt to stop their mistake becoming public knowledge.

A quote from an investigator working for the Local Government Ombudsman.

‘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.’

And a quote from me

'When I despair, I remember that all through history there has been people like our Local Government Ombudsmen, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always.'

I will let an investigator from the York office of the Local Government Ombudsman have the last word.

'Believe me it’s not a stupid system that we run it’s a stupid system that the government has imposed.'

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Section 32(3) notices (Update 1)

Further to my earlier post regarding Section 32(3) notices I have the following update.

On the 29th September 2009 I submitted the following Freedom of Information request using the What Do They Know website.

Over the last five years how many times has the Secretary of State lifted a (Local Government Act 174 part III) Section 32(3) notice for each Local Government Ombudsman and which councils issued them?

After a delay which forced me to submit a request for an internal review I received the following response.

We are not aware of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government using his powers under Section 32(3) of Part 3 of the Local Government Act 1974 on any occasion over the last five years.

That means that over the last five years the Local Government Ombudsman can't have asked the Secretary of State to lift a Section 32(3) notice served on them by a Council. Even though some are known to have been wrongly served.

The evidence proving that Local Government Ombudsmen are biased in favour of councils is now overwhelming and can no longer be ignored.

Further update

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Identifying the bad public authorities

One of the spin of benefits of submitting Freedom of Information requests to a large number of public authorities is that you can start to identify the good councils, those that supply the information you requested and the poor councils, those who spend more time and effort trying to stop you getting hold of public information than it would take just to give it you in the first place.

It's also quite amusing to read some of the reasons for refusal. Cost grounds is a popular excuse but another more recent excuse emerging is copyright. What councils fail to understand is that the fact information is subject to copyright and restrictions on re-use does not exempt it from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Their position is all the more absurd when you realise that every person in the world could ask for exactly the same information which they are refusing to give to one person (me) just in case it gets published for everyone to read.

Thereby creating the bizarre situation where they may have to deal with thousands of FOI requests for the same information rather than just one. Only a tax payer funded institution would accept the logic of that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More LGO incompetence hits the Internet

Another citizen who is dissatisfied with Local Government Ombudsman has decided to blog about their experience.

http://woodsofworcester.blogspot.com/

The evidence just keeps on mounting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

LGO: The Ombudsman Enterprise and Administrative Justice

During the select committee investigation into the Role and Investigation of the Local Government Ombudsmen during 2005 one of their friendly professors (also British and Irish Ombudsman Association colleague) Richard Kirkham produced a very pro LGO paper supposedly from a complainants point of view. Although after reading the paper I doubted he had ever met a complainant before writing it.

However, in a more recent paper 'The Ombudsman Enterprise and Administrative Justice: an academic viewpoint' he and a couple of colleagues now suggests two things that we have been fighting for since 2003. The article is printed in issue 38 the BIOA news (page 10) which can be downloaded here

1) A Government led review of the ombudsman community is undertaken as soon as practically possible.

2) Revise the accountability arrangements of the local government ombudsmen.

If the Government won't listen to us will they listen to pro ombudsmen and BIOA colleagues like Richard Kirkham?

Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman (update 3)

Further to my earlier posts the Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman and Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman (Update 2) the select committee has now interviewed the Government's preferred new Local Government Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin. You can read a transcript of the interview here. Although the interview was supposed to be a pre-appointment hearing it is obvious from Dr Martin's responses that she already considers the current LGOs as her colleagues. Although she is not an ex Council CEO, which is a good thing, she is still ex Council and, like all the other LGOs, has never had a proper job. In fact she has an academic background without any real world experience which is frightening for a prospective LGO.

The email I sent to the Select Committee has been opened, up to now, on 46 occasions for a total of 1 hour 20 minutes so someone is interested in what I have to say. What concerned me most was her obvious lack of knowledge about such things as local settlements, however, even the panel don't even understand them so her ignorance on the subject was not picked up. We will have to wait and see if she is an improvement on Jerry White or not. Unlike Jerry White though she is at least giving up her part time job rather than trying to do two jobs at once as Jerry did. Even the committee stated that the Local Government Ombudsman's job was a full time role so how an earth Jerry got away with two jobs for so long is a mystery to me.

In anticipation of Dr Jane Martin getting the job I have started a web-page dedicated to her. I have already incorporated her promise to give up her part time work and her political activity. If you have any information about Dr Jane Martin please send it to me so I can add it to her page.

Friday, October 09, 2009

LGO FOI Officer admits supplying false information

Further to an earlier post about the LGO breaking the law, in a new response the LGO FOI officer admit they provided false information when they responding to an earlier Freedom of Information request.

The provisions of the LGPIH in relation to Statements of Reasons are not being ignored by the Local Government Ombudsmen. It seems my letter of 17 August in response to your request (our ref: CS/09/070) “Statement of Reasons” was incorrect when it said: “The Ombudsmen decided not to exercise that power from that date, and this new provision has yet to be implemented.”

So why does the FOI officer now suggest they had earlier supplied false information (A lie by any other name). Probably because the FOI officer stating they supplied false information gets the LGO out of the more serious charge of breaking the law.

The LGO never learn

Further to my earlier post regarding a Freedom of Information request I submitted to the Local Government Ombudsman in order to identify how many Section 32(3) notices were served on the LGO by councils, how many times the LGO has asked the Secretary of State to lift the notice and how many times the LGO had found the council guilty of maladministration for wrongly serving a Section 32(3) on them.

[Section 32(3) of the 1974 Local Government Act is supposed to help councils stop the LGO from disclosing the content of sensitive documents, such as written advice from their legal counsel/barrister or other experts, to the complainant.]

I have now received a similar response to the one I received when I asked them about the number of council officers they had reported for lying to them. Essentially they don't want to give me the information and I can well understand why. It will be another damning indictment of the LGO.

However, just like last time, they may be able to delay my research but they can't stop the truth from eventually coming out. As they couldn't when I published my research into the number of times they had reported a council officer for lying.

I have already started to submit a request to every council in England in order to extract some of the information and another to the government will extract the rest.

As it did with my earlier research it will take quite some time to submit all the FOI requests and elicit the information but it will eventually be published and I have no doubt it will support my theory that the LGO very rarely, if ever, seek to have a Section 32(3) notice lifted or find a council guilty for misusing a Section 32(3) notice.

One of the unexpected spin off benefits of the LGO's refusal to give me the information, forcing me to ask every council in England is that I can link back from every FOI request to my research as I did with my earlier research. This directed well over 1500 people from the What Do They Know website to read the outcome of my research.

Luckily for me the LGO, like most public servants, never learn their lesson and keep shooting themselves in the foot. Look at the additional damage the MPs did when they tried to stop the truth about their expenses being published. All they did was to make themselves look even worse for trying to stop people seeing the information.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New Ombudsman named

Further to my earlier email to the Office of the Deputy Prime minister select committee.

Dr Jane Martin has been named as the preferred candidate for appointment as the next Local Government Ombudsman following a public competition.

Just a pity there wasn't a public consultation regarding the suitability of ex council officers holding the post of Local Government Ombudsman .

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Email to the ODPM select committee.

Reference: Pre-appointment hearing with the Government's preferred candidate for Local Government Ombudsman and Deputy Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England.

Why has the name of the preferred candidate not been published in advance of the hearing so member of the public could, if necessary, raise objections about the preferred candidate?

Yours sincerely

Trevor Nunn

Monday, October 05, 2009

LGO caught out lying again!

On the 11th September I submitted the following Freedom of Information request.

I would like to know on what date,

1) the Commission for Local Administration in England started to factor in the likely cost of an investigation into their decision whether to investigate a complaint or not?

2) you made the department of Communities and Local Government aware that you were no longer deciding to investigate complaints based on merit alone?

3) you made complainants aware that the decision to investigate their complaint would no longer be made on merit alone?

The response from the LGO to my FOI request is as follows.

The answers to the questions you pose in your email of 11 September, are:

1.The Commission does not do this [my emphasis], so there is no date.
2.Never (see above).
3.Never (see above).

Oh no? Mrs Seex clearly uses costs as reason for not investigating complaints about council officer conduct. See an extract from a letter I have been given below. No wonder the LGO very rarely identify council officer wrongdoing, they don't even look. Clearly using costs as a reason for not doing so!

Contents of a recent letter sent by Mr Hobbs, Assistant Ombudsman, York LGO office to a complainant.

'Of course the Ombudsman [Mrs Seex] does not condone any council or its officers flouting policies or the law but what she does do is consider whether it is in the public interest and whether it is a good use of scarce public resources to pursue complaints about council officer conduct as opposed to complaints about more substantive maladministration causing injustice.' [My annotation] [My Bolding]

So what is the truth?

Friday, October 02, 2009

How many people complain to the DCLG about the LGO

On the 28th August 2009 I submitted the following Freedom of Information request via the What Do They Know website

'I would like to know how many complaints (letters of dissatisfaction) have been submitted to your department about the Local Government Ombudsman over the last five years.'

I received the following response on the 23rd September 2009

'Thank you for your request, received on 28th August, for information about the number of complaints the Department has received about the Local Government Ombudsman over the last five years. Your request has been considered under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Unfortunately it will not be possible to provide you with the information you have asked for. This is because I estimate the cost of searching for, extracting and supplying you with all the information relevant to your request would be in the region of £1,000. We are not obliged to provide information if the cost exceeds £600'

Their response implies that they don't keep records of complaints about the Local Government Ombudsman and the only way they could provide a response to my FOI request was to search all correspondence over the last five years.

Before I requested an internal review I decided to submit the following message to clarify my understanding of the situation.

'Just to confirm the situation, are you implying that you don't record complaints against the LGO and that the only way you can identify the number of complaints submitted to your office over the last five years is to look at every letters received by your office over that period?

If that is the case I would like to know how you keep ministers aware of the number of complaints against the LGO.'
On the 30th September I received an acknowledgement

'Trevor - Thank you for your email below. A response is being prepared and we will send a reply to you shortly.'

I await their final response but will if necessary submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner because it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that they don't keep a record of a citizen's dissatisfaction with an organisation that they sponsor and only use the LGO annual reports, statistics and surveys as the basis for deciding whether or not the LGO, as a tax payer funded quango, are providing an adequate system of administrative justice.

Fact: It cost the taxpayer over 6 times more to fund the LGO than they recommend as settlements for public authority wrongdoing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

LGO: More ways to reduce investigations?

It has come to my attention that the LGO are now sending out letters to complainants using the cost of investigation their complaint as an additional factor for not doing so.

The LGO already use their discretion not to investigate if they don't think a complainant has suffered enough injustice to warrant an investigation. They also use their discretion not to investigate a complaint if they don't think the maladministration is bad enough to warrant an investigation.

Read more about this here and here and then read this which proves this is a new(ish) phenomenon.

However, it would now appear that they are also using their discretion not to investigate a complaint if it is going to cost them too much money to do so. That means that complainants need to suffer a substantial amount of injustice through a serious act of council maladministration that can be investigated on the cheap before the LGO will investigate your complaint.

I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to identify when this insidious policy started.

I would like to know on what date,

1) the Commission for Local Administration in England started to factor in the likely cost of an investigation into their decision whether to investigate a complaint or not?

2) you made the department of Communities and Local Government aware that you were no longer deciding to investigate complaints based on merit alone?

3) you made complainants aware that the decision to investigate their complaint would no longer be made on merit alone?

Here is an existing LGO policy designed to save money

Even if a complainant manages to get through the above and persuade the LGO to investigate all they usually do is ring up the council and ask them if they have done anything wrong. If the council say no the LGO refuses to investigate further. Don't believe me? Well that is what they did in the famous Balchins case in 1999 and they did it to me when I submitted my second complaint during 2002. I even have a letter from an Assistant Ombudsman who argues there is nothing wrong with that approach. More here

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Persistently unreasonable LGO FOI officer?

On the 18th September I started to write an on-line Freedom of Information request which I intended to send to the LGO via the What Do They Know website. Unfortunately, due to a computer glitch together with a fault on the What Do they Know website, the FOI request was submitted to the LGO before I had finished drafting it.

I immediately contacted the WDTK website, they acknowledged a fault with the website and marked this particular FOI request as withdrawn. I also sent the LGO a follow up note to the withdrawn request using the WDTK website.

Please ignore this particular FOI request. A final version of this draft FOI request has now been submitted and can be read here. (This linked to the final version of my Freedom of Information request I had just submitted.)

Unfortunately the LGO had some difficulty understanding the situation and sent the following message in response to the FOI request I had clearly withdrawn. (This was the one marked by the WDTK website as withdrawn until the LGO reactivated it by sending a response.)

You have sent three messages with the same title. In the message below you refer to a draft FOI request on the 'whatdotheyknow' website. If you wish to submit a request to us, please do so - I don't intend to look at 'draft' requests elsewhere.

So as things stand, I will not respond further to any of these three messages (the other two are attached).

In response I sent the following message

I have NOT submitted three versions of this request. I was in the process of writing this FOI request when their was a glitch on the website. Therefore, I withdrew this request and submitted a final version. I have made the position very clear so if you fail to respond to the other Freedom of Information request on this subject I will submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

In response I received the following message, again to the FOI request I had withdrawn.

You HAVE submitted three emails with the same title. I want to be sure I am responding to the right one. Your third email suggested I look at a link to a 'draft FOI request'. I suggested you submit a 'final FOI request'. If you could send a 'final' request, I will respond to it.

As a result I sent the following message.

Will you stop responding to the FOI request I withdrew and respond to the final request here.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ce...

I have now made the position quite clear on two occasions please stop playing silly games and respond to the FOI request I have NOT withdrawn and stop responding to the one I have withdrawn.

The can follow the story as it unfolds because I have submitted a request for an internal review and will if necessary submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner.


http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/certified_offences_to_the_high_c




http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/certified_offences_to_the_high_c_2

which the LGO FOI officer is doing their best to ignore by sending all responses via the withdrawn request.

I also added the following note which explains how all FOI requests made via the WDTK website have unique URLs. Note the 2 on the end of the second and final request.

To further clarify the situation all FOI requests have a unique URL so it is not that difficult for an authority to identify an individual request, keep track of it and respond to it rather than other requests from the same requester.

FOOTNOTE: If you check out all LGO responses to various FOI requests on the What Do They Know website you will find that on a number of occasions they have sent an amended version of correspondence and withdrawn an earlier version, so the concept can't be unknown to them.


UPDATE

I have asked the What Do They Know website to mark the withdrawn request as withdrawn once again, which they have done. I have also, for a third time and final time tried to explain the situation to the LGO.

A third and final attempt to get you to respond to this FOI request before I submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

I submitted a Freedom of Information request on the 18th September 2009.

[Over the last five years how many certified offences has each LGO brought to the attention of the High Court, how many involved a council member or officer, what were the outcomes and which council did the member or officers work for.]

This was submitted via the What Do They Know website and has a unique URL and reply address. Full details can be seen by viewed at

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ce...

Unfortunately for some reason your office insists on responding to a different Freedom of Information request. One which I had withdrawn which has also has a unique URL and reply address.

Even when I submitted an internal review request regarding

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ce...

You wrongly replied to the withdrawn FOI request. Just what do I have to do to get you to respond to a valid FOI request and ignore one that was clearly withdrawn?

I have no intention of following the suggestion in your response to my withdrawn FOI request by submitting a third request.

I have submitted a valid Freedom of Information request via the What Do They Know website and I demand a response.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ce...

We will just have to wait and see if they yet again send a response to the wrong FOI request and re-activate it or this time respond to the correct FOI request.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Certified offences to the High Court

The 1974 Local Government Act Part III states

Section 29

'For the purposes of an investigation under this Part of this Act a Local Commissioner may require any member or officer of the authority concerned, or any other person who in his opinion is able to furnish information or produce documents relevant to the investigation, to furnish any such information or produce any such documents.

For the purposes of any such investigation a Local Commissioner shall have the same powers as the High Court in respect of the attendance and examination of witnesses, and in respect of the production of documents.

If any person without lawful excuse obstructs a Local Commissioner in the performance of his functions under this Part of this Act, or any officer of the Commission assisting in the performance of those functions, or is guilty of any act or omission in relation to an investigation under this Part of this Act which, if that investigation were a proceeding in the High Court, would constitute contempt of court, the Local Commissioner may certify the offence to the High Court.'

In order to identify how many times each Ombudsman has used this power over the last five years I submitted the following Freedom of Information request.

'Over the last five years how many certified offences has each LGO brought to the attention of the High Court, how many involved a council member or officer, what were the outcomes and which council did the member or officers work for.'

I think the answer will be never (or at the most a couple of times) but we will have to wait and see.

Update: The answer as expected was NEVER. Read more about the Information Commisioner's decision about my complaint.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Section 32(3) notices

The council wrongly served a Section 32(3) notice on the LGO during my complaint but the LGO didn't do anything about it. Just let the council waste everyone's time with impunity. The LGO didn't even attempt to get the notice lifted and only persuaded the council to lift the notice after many months of pressure from me.

Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to find out just how many notices were served on the LGO by councils, how many times the LGO has asked the Secretary of State to lift the notice and how many times the LGO had found the council guilty of maladministration for wrongly serving a Section 32(3) on them.

My Freedom of Information request can be read here. As with my previous Freedom of Information requests to the Local Government Ombudsman if they try to avoid giving me the information I will make the same request to every single council in country. [I had to do this when they refused to tell me how many times they had informed a council that a council officer had lied to them during an investigation. Not only did I get the information the resonses clearly indicate why the LGO did not want the information to become public knowledge.]

For those that don't know what a Section 32(3) notice is the following may be of interest.

Section 32(3) of the 1974 Local Government Act is supposed to help councils stop the LGO from disclosing the content of sensitive documents, such as written advice from their legal counsel/barrister or other experts, to the complainant.

During an investigation the LGO should, but often don't, ask the council for a defence to the complainants allegations together with their evidence. On many occasions the council don't even want the complainant to even see and their defence let alone the advice given to them by their own legal counsel. On other occasions they don't want the complainant to find out they have no evidence to support their position.

Therefore, many councils wrongly serve a Section 32(3) notice on the LGO to stop them giving the complainant information which they are actually entitled to. Unfortunately this stops the LGO in their tracks because they cannot give the complainant any knowledge of the information subject to the Section 32(3) notice.

What the LGO should do, if they feel the council is wrongly using the notice to delay the investigation, is immediately ask the Secretary of State to lift the notice. However, they very rarely, if ever, do so, they normally waste the next few months and sometimes years trying to sweet talk the council into lifting the notice voluntarily.

After the council has used the delay to their advantage they eventually comply and lift the notice so the investigation into the complaint against them can continue. The LGO then quietly forgets that the council misused a Section 32(3) notice.

During the long delay between the serving of the Section 32(3) notice and the eventual lifting of the notice the council has given themselves more than enough time to go through the complaint against them in detail and construct a much better defence to the complaint than would have otherwise been the case. All whilst the LGO stands idly by watching from the sidelines.

When the investigation continues the complainant is usually faced with some 'newly identified/created evidence' to support the councils position, which the LGO accept and promptly close down the complaint without giving the complainant the time to properly respond to the 'new evidence'.

If you ever go to court you will find that they have a system that ensure the simultaneous transmission of evidence between parties. Can you imaging if one party managed to get the other party's evidence months before they had to disclose theirs? The advantage is obvious but something that our so called 'impartial' Local Government Ombudsmen let happen on a daily basis.

More on this subject when I receive a response to my Freedom of Information request.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yet another concidence?

Further to my earlier post Coincidence?

The LGO has recently identified that a council planning officer fabricated misleading evidence. Has the council sacked the culprit and why didn't the LGO identify the officer?
'Bernard Gooch and his wife Julia were surprised to see pictures of a strange car parked on the field being used as evidence against them.
They were even more surprised when Mrs Gooch discovered the blue Vauxhall Corsa belonged to a planning official involved in the case.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1212483/Couple-wins-apology-council-fakes-car-photographs-planning-row-field.html#ixzz0QinzCzRB

Would the LGO have done so without my research exposing their previous failure? I doubt it!

Coincidence?

Within a few short weeks of my research being published (about the LGO's willingness to accept everything a council officer tells them together with their failure to report the fact that a council officer had lied during an investigation) the York office actually published a report about a council officer lying to them. That is something they have never done before. Coincidence or an attempt to minimise the damage done by my research? You be the judge.

Amazing what you can get Local Government Ombudsmen to do when you corner them like rats in a trap.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The current LGOs should fall on their swords

The current LGOs have broken the law on numerous occasions over the last few years, however, the situation is made much worse when you take into account that they are responsible for Local Administrative Justice in England.

I always thought people in positions like that, who were caught breaking the law, were forced to resign. I am sure a judge would be forced to resign if they were caught breaking the law once, let alone on a regular basis.

I know that the communities and local government department of the government are aware of many of the problems with the LGO but are unwilling to take appropriate corrective action.

In addition I also know that the government petition website cannot be trusted because they have removed names from a number of anti LGO petition and kept no records as to number of names removed ot the reason for their removal.

Luckily, the Local Government Act allows the Queen to remove the LGOs for misbehaviour.

Local Government Act 1974 Part III Section 23(6)

A [Local] Commissioner may be relieved of office by Her Majesty at his own request or may be removed from office by Her Majesty on grounds of incapacity or misbehaviour.

[The word Local was later repealed by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (c. 42, SIF 81:1, 2), ss. 22(4), 194(4), Sch. 12 Pt. II]

Therefore, if the current commissioners have not resigned voluntarily within the next 3 months I have decided to petition the Queen in an attempt to have them removed.

However, I will not limit my petition to their law breaking, I will also include a summary of everything else that could also be classed as misbehaviour. As one example, there are many more, the time they lied to the government about their true compliance rates.

LGO broke the law in 2006

The LGO are also under a legal duty to submit a triennial review but didn't in 2006. Although they later tried to excuse this unlawful act by suggesting they were given implied consent by the DCLG, however, what they fail to understand that the DCLG cannot give them, or anyone else, express or implied consent to break the law. Why Anne Seex, York LGO, who has had some legal training, didn't know that is anyone's guess.

The LGO clearly broke the law in 2006 when they failed to produce a triennial review.

LGO have been breaking the law since April 2008

On the 1st April 2008 the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 came into force. Part 9 of the Act concerns the Local Government Ombudsman.

Section 175
(1C) If a Local Commissioner decides—
(a) not to investigate a matter, or
(b) to discontinue an investigation of a matter,
he shall prepare a statement of his reasons for the decision and send a copy to each of the persons concerned.
The Ombudsman's power to issue a statement of reasons on a complaint was brought in by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, which came into force on 1 April 2008. However, the Ombudsmen decided not to exercise that power from that date, and this new provision has yet to be implemented. So no statements of reasons have yet been produced; the information you request is not held.

However, the Act gives the Local Government Ombudsman no discretion over whether to issue a statement of their reason under the following conditions, If they decide

(a) not to investigate a matter, or
(b) to discontinue an investigation of a matter,
The Act clearly places a mandatory obligation on Local Government Ombudsmen to produce a statement of their reasons,

he
shall prepare a statement of his reasons for the decision and send a copy to each of the persons concerned.

In their response to the Freedom of Information request the Local Government Ombudsman openly admit they have not produced any statements of reasons since the Act became law which means the Local Government Ombudsman has been breaking the law since the 1st April 2008.


I wonder how many other laws has the Local Government Ombudsman decided to ignore since 1974?

Friday, September 04, 2009

LGO guilty of promoting double standards

In an earlier post I reproduced the unredacted email that Nigel Karney (LGO) sent to Stephen McAllister (DCLG) about the LGO's compliance rates. I had earlier obtained a redacted copy but was interested in why the had sent me a redacted copy of the email. Just what didn't they want me to see? The bit they didn't want me to see is reproduced below.

'We feel very strongly that your petition response should be specific to complaints under our current jurisdiction covering local government and similar public bodies. Your current wording reads as a statement that would cover all circumstances.

As you are aware, the Ombudsmen are in discussion with the government about the possibility of binding recommendations being appropriate for `self funders'. This is on the basis that this sector does not have a mature relationship with an ombudsman type organisation. Furthermore, the private sector may be less likely to be persuaded by the sanction of a published response to a further report and, in many cases, publicity will not be in the best interests of the complainant.
' [My emphasis]

It is clear that the LGO want their recommendations binding for others but not their friends in local authorities. Why, when an ever growing number of local authorities are refusing to follow their recommendations, don't they want to make them binding on local authorities?

Mr Karney states that the reason is due to their mature relationship with local authorities. What utter rubbish. But what can you expect from a man that, as a reason for refusing to supply information under the Freedom of Information Act about the number of ex central government staff they employed, stated that the request was vexatious because it was no different than asking how many of their staff had brown hair. As everyone knows the LGO argue they are independent of central government, however, I have never heard them argue they are independent of people with brown hair.

They don't appear to understand that this fallacious twaddle they insist on using to excuse their actions just makes them look like idiots. In addition how does he know publicity will not be in the best interests of the complainant. Has he ever asked anyone?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Exposing the truth forces the LGO to change

A council officer provided incorrect and seriously misleading information to the Ombudsman regarding my case yet Mrs Seex failed to bring this to the attention of the council during her investigation or in her 2008 report.

Since my earlier posts about Local Government Ombudsmen always believing the council/ignoring council officer lies and my research into the subject, it looks as if Local Government Ombudsmen have now decided to change their ways. Just a pity they are only doing so to cover their backsides now my research has exposed their failures of the past The following statement was recently published in a Telegraph article.

'The Ombudsman found that the Council

'..........
had provided “incorrect and seriously misleading information” to her during her inquiry.'

Read the full Telegraph article here.

I wonder if the officer concerned has been disciplined by the council? I doubt it. Although the LGO now appear to be bringing council officer lies to the attention of the council they don't appear to be doing anything else about the issue.

In any event what about all the people who have suffered over the last 25 years because of the LGO's stupid and biased policy of accepting everything a council officers says without validation and then ignoring the problem when evidence later proves they have lied?

At least what Mrs Seex was forced to do with Lewisham proves one of my earlier quotes about Local Government Ombudsmen. They work well when cornered like a rat in a trap

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Graham Crane's petition (Last few days)

There are only a few days left in which to sign the petition to scrap the LGO. Please consider signing the petition before the 5th September 2009.

If Graham manages to get over 200 signatures the Government will have to provide a response. One of their earlier responses to a petition provided evidence that the LGO misled the Government over their true compliance rates. Every successful petition, irrespective of the Government's response, is another nail in the LGO coffin.

Don't forget that every family member can sign as long as they have a unique email address. Same goes for your friends and wider family.

It only takes a few seconds to sign and could help put a stop to the injustice and misery the LGO are guilty of perpetrating. Click here to sign

Last day to sign is the 5th September 2009


Footnote: At about 9pm on Sunday the 30th August 2009 the 200th person signed Graham's petition. However, please continue to sign because we are aware that the government often remove names from petitions without warning.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The truth is out (Update 1)

Further to my earlier post the truth is out

I submitted a follow up Freedom of information request to the LGO in order to obtain an unredacted copy of the email that Nigel Karney (LGO) sent to Stephen McAllister (DCLG) about the LGO's compliance rates. I also asked the Department of Communities and Local Government for a copy just in case the LGO tried to block my request. I have now received a response from the LGO and the email is copied below. I also received a response from the DCLG on the very same day.

Stephen

The compliance rate in 2007/08 was also 100%. But it is important to appreciate that this reflects our relationship with bodies in jurisdiction that has matured to high levels of respect over a 30 year history. The rate of compliance was very different in the early years of our scheme

We feel very strongly that your petition response should be specific to complaints under our current jurisdiction covering local government and similar public bodies. Your current wording reads as a statement that would cover all circumstances.

As you are aware, the Ombudsmen are in discussion with the government about the possibility of binding recommendations being appropriate for `self funders'. This is on the basis that this sector does not have a mature relationship with an ombudsman type organisation. Furthermore, the private sector may be less likely to be persuaded by the sanction of a published response to a further report and, in many cases, publicity will not be in the best interests of the complainant.

Regards

Nigel


I will comment on the content of the email in my next post.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Humorous quotes about the LGO

Local Government Ombudsmen,
  • would get a rebate if the Government taxed justice.
  • are a Government experiment in Artificial Stupidity.
  • have delusions of adequacy.
  • would be out of their depth in a puddle.
  • are diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
  • bring a lot of joy when they leave a room.
  • are so dense light bends around them.
  • are gross incompetents - that's 144 times more incompetent that other Ombudsmen.
  • have flippers further apart in the pinball game of justice.
  • have an intellect rivalled only by garden tools.
  • all froth and no beer.
  • proof that evolution can go in reverse.
  • work well when cornered like a rat in a trap.
  • are depriving other public sector organisations of an idiot.
  • have a photographic memory but with the lens cap on.
  • will give you change if you give them a penny for their thoughts.
  • can't find their ass with two hands and a mirror.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Number 10 Petition Website not to be trusted.

Following a freedom if information request to identify the following

How many names/signatures your office has removed from approved petitions, the reasons for their removal, the url of the petitions that names/signatures have been removed from.

I have identified that Number 10 do not keep accessible records of how many signatures have been removed, the reason for their removal or the petition they were removed from.

Although they stated that they have the right to remove a name that consists of more than just a name this is obviously discretionary because many petitions have entries that consist of more than just a name, Here is an example. Ironically they have left my name on this petition whilst removing it from others.

Unfortunately, the way Number 10 currently run the petition website leaves it open to serious abuse because anyone with access can remove as many names as they wish from any petition without having to account for their actions.

As a result, from today I am recommending that people use an alternative petition website because the Number 10 clearly cannot be trusted. Here are a number of others for people to consider.

Lobbyingforum ipetitions care2 petitionOnline petition.co.uk

I for one will never sign another Number 10 petition until this abuse is stopped.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman (Update 3)

Further to my previous posts

Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman,
Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman(Update 1)
and Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman (Update 2)

I have now had a response to a freedom of information request to the LGO

'I would like to know when Tony Redmond, the Chair of the Commission for Local administration, was first made aware that Jerry White, a Local Government Ombudsmen, was leaving the commission.'

Although Mrs Pook doesn't think it appropriate I ask the question she ignores the fact that the delay, in Mr White's resignation becoming known to the CLAE and DCLG was used as an excuse to seek a post-appointment rather than pre-appointment hearing against the wishes of the Government. As usual something stinks in the world of the LGO but at least the Minister concerned has refused an application to hold a post appointment hearing.

Unfortunately for the LGO they will now be an Ombudsman down until the proper procedure is followed. This would appear to mean that Redmond and Seex will have to split White's workload until a replacement had been recruited. If only they had followed the correct procedure in the first place!

Out of interest the Department of Communities and Local Government were notified by White of his intention to resign on the 23rd September 2008. However, they failed to advertise for a replacement for a further 6 months.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The LGO always believe the council. Update 2.

Further to my initial post The LGO always believe the council and the update The LGO always believe the council. Update 1 I am now close to completing my research. Only a few Freedom of Information requests still to come in but with the majority now in I thought it was time to publish the outcome of my research to date. With close to 400 hundred Council responses to collate it has produced a large document. As a result I decided to publish my finding on the Ombudsman Watchers website and link to it here. The results are exactly what I expected. Up to now the Local Government Ombudsman has not brought one incident of a Council Officer misleading or lying to them to the attention of a Council over the last 5 years following which the Council Officer concerned has faced any proper disciplinary consequences. Whilst this could be explained away by arguing that no council officer has ever lied to or misled the Ombudsman, it would be an answer that most people would consider a statistical impossibility. In any event I have also provided evidence of a council officer lying to the LGO during 2002 which the LGO subsequently ignored. In addition, this was not an isolated incidence as readers will see when I publish my full response to the Ombudsman's final report.

If any reader has evidence similar to mine please send it to me so I can add it to the final part of my research on this subject.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Head in the sand or deliberately ignoring the evidence?

An extract from the minutes of the meeting of the Commission held at Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP in the Board Room, 15th floor on Tuesday 29 January 2008 at 11.30am.

Mick King updated the Commission on his and Anne Seex’s researches into possible reasons for the increasing downwards trend in complaints received by the York office (18.7% fewer in the month of December; 10.5% fewer in the past 12 months). Their researches suggested the following contributory factors:
  • The transfers out of authorities -Trafford and Tower Hamlets.
  • A steady overall decline in categories of complaint, in contrast to rises in some of the categories in London and Coventry eg complaints about parking and council tax.
  • Analysis of the number of complaints received by authority revealed that, of the 10 authorities with the biggest decline in LGO complaints, eight had been the focus of LGO activities such as training and specific YMT initiatives. Mick King did however stress that it was too soon to be certain about this factor and that further research would be needed. He had, however, raised this with Theresa Kimble (York Communications project officer) who had noted a similar trend in other local authorities where training had taken place.

Anne Seex added that a further factor was the continuing transfer of council housing stock to registered social landlords by a number of northern authorities; this could help to explain the decline in the number of housing complaints received by York (which had increased in London and Coventry).

The report was noted by the Commission.

How typical of Local Government Ombudsmen, ignoring evidence that's right under their noses. What is the main reason why any organisation loses customers? Because the organisation in question provides a poor quality service or product, common sense to most people but obviously rocket science to the LGO.

The bottom line is that the service they offer stinks. Their staff, often

• lie to complainants
• accept the word of council staff (even when overwhelming evidence to the contrary is available)
• interpret evidence, the law, codes and guidelines in favour of the council
• assist councils by fabricating documents
• use fallacious reasoning to support the councils position
• disregard evidence and in some cases whole complaints

And the list goes on and on.

Over the years the government has continually expanded their remit to increase the number of people submitting complaints but even that can't mask the fact that their customers are deserting them in droves for one simple reason. They do not offer the impartial service they advertise. The system of administrative justice in England stinks and will continue to stink until the LGO are replaced by an open and honest tribunal system that is not controlled and manned by ex council staff.

Footnote: Ironically one of the reasons they gave for complaint numbers being on a downward trend is because Trafford Council was transferred from the York office to the Coventry office. However, Trafford like most of their other customers has simply had enough of the discredited York office and requested a change of Ombudsman. Just a pity complainants can't do the same!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recruitment of a replacement Local Government Ombudsman (Update 2)

When I found out that they were recruiting a new Ombudsman to replace Jerry White, Coventry, I sent an email outlining my concerns to the scrutiny committee on the 1st June 2009. On the 10th of June 2009 I received an acknowledgement. Yesterday I decided to check my email statistics and noticed that between the 1st June 2009 and the 22nd June 2009 my email had been read on 36 separate occasions. I think that may well be a record for one of my emails. Better still they clicked on all the links I had included. Now we know who visited my blog on the 20th and 22nd June 2009 from the Houses of Parliament. See visitor stats in the last post.