Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The LGO always believe the council.

I recently submitted a freedom of information request to the Local Government Ombudsman to confirm something that I was told by an investigator and an assistant ombudsman a couple of years ago. As I predicted I didn't obtain the information from the Local Government Ombudsman so I decided to get the information from all the councils instead. I am currently working my way through the list of councils from Adur District Council to Wyre Forest District Council asking the same question using the most excellent What Do They Know? web site.

'During the last five years how many times has the Local Government Ombudsman (as a result of investigating a complaint against Adur District Council) brought to the attention of the council the fact that a member of Adur District Council staff had misled them, lied to them or done anything else to hinder their investigation. If they have what disciplinary action was taken against the individual(s) concerned by the council.'

Up to now the responses have been similar to the one given by Adur District Council, the first council I submitted the request to.

'On no occasion in the last five years has the Local Government Ombudsman suggested that any member of staff has lied to or misled them.'

The responses will support my contention that the LGO will always (unless they can't avoid it, which is extremely rare) believe staff working for the council you are complaining about even if you have rock solid evidence that they have lied or misled the Ombudsman.

The only way a council is ever found guilty of maladministration by a Local Government Ombudsman is if the local authority staff concerned actually confesses to or admit their wrongdoings. When I have finished my task and collated all the responses I will post the results and prove once and for all that the Local Government Ombudsmen are not as impartial as they would like you to think.

The Balchin's case illustrates that the Local Government Ombudsman has been using this 'just accept what council staff tell you without validation' policy for at least twenty years. They also used it on me in 2002 and they are still using it today. When Mr and Mrs Balchin first complained some twenty years ago, the LGO at the time just rang the council concerned, accepted what they were told by the CEO, and refused to investigate their complaint. Years later it was proven that the council had in fact been guilty of maladministration and had misled the Local Government Ombudsman. The Balchins eventually received £100,000 compensation from the council concerned.

When I submitted a complaint in 2002 an Assistant Ombudsman just rang up the council concerned and accepted what they were told by a council Solicitor and refused to investigate my complaint. They even argued that there was nothing wrong with that approach. Tell that to people like the Balchins and Baby P (see below).

The Baby P case illustrates that this is a common problem among all 'so called' watchdogs. Remember Haringey received good reviews from Ofsted before the death of Baby P. After the inquiry it was identified that Ofsted had just used information supplied by Haringey without any form of validation. When Ofsted eventually did their job properly, and validated the information supplied, they re-evaluated and downgraded their later assesment of Haringey.

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