Yes and no, in many cases a complainant has no other form of redress so even though the odds are heavily stacked against them it is still worth pursuing a complaint through the LGO. If you do submit a complaint to the LGO you can significantly increase your chances of success by taking a number of precautions. A list will be published very soon. In any event, the LGO have to find in favour of some complainants or else they would give the game away. You never know, you may just be one of the lucky ones! If you can afford it and you have any form of legal redress against the authority in question then it is almost certainly better to take legal action rather than involve the LGO. In one case a Solicitor managed to recover damages of £5,000 when the complainant would have been lucky to have been awarded £200 by the LGO. Why do you think most authorities actively encourage complainants to take their complaint to the LGO? The last thing they want you to do is seek legal advice!
The LGO should be replaced by local tribunals. Similar in many ways to an employment tribunal. Local Councils should be made to fund such tribunals and either party should be able to appeal a tribunal decision in a court of law. That would bring the system into line with the Human Rights Act as far as accountability, oral hearings and the right to a fair trial is concerned. In addition their findings should be legally binding on both parties and enforceable. The Chair of the tribunal should have legal experience and qualifications. In addition they should not be ex authority personnel. Justice should not only be done it should be seen to be done. That's not possible with the LGO but it is possible with a tribunal. Anything would be better than the LGO
The Ombudsman state that the average cost of a complaint during 2005/6 was £640. They also state that they had 18, 321 complaints during the period with a total running cost of some £11.7 million. The problem is that the LGO have a habit of using smoke and mirror tactics to improve the publics perception of their cost effectiveness. For example, when they give out figures for settlements they always give the highest figure but when they give out the figures for costs they always give out the lowest figure. If they used the same criteria for both they would produce the following figures. All complaints, cost of each complaint approx £640, average compensation approx £92 Complaints within their remit, cost of complaints approx £1064, average compensation £152 Each complaint that the LGO investigate costs £1400 and the average compensation received is only £201. Even if a complainant is successful the average compensation recommended by the LGO is only a paltry £620. Their statement that the average cost of a complaint is £640 can only be achieved by including complaints they are not legally entitled to consider. The question auditors should be asking is why do the LGO include complaints they are not legally entitled to consider?[Back to questions]
No. There is no appeals mechanism, the LGO's decision is final. Having said that there are three avenues open to a complainant who is not satisfied with an LGO's decision. The first is to ask the Ombudsmen to review the decision, the second is to seek a Judicial Review of the Ombudsman's decision and the third is to tell everyone about it. The problem with asking the Ombudsman to review the decision, which has usually been taken by a junior member of their staff, is the fact that they rely on a summary prepared by the very person who's decision you are challenging. That makes the review inherently unfair because it allows the investigator to skew the summary in support of their original decision. When you also take into account that the LGO don't like to admit they ever make mistakes, getting them to change their decision is extremely difficult.
Embarking on a JR against the LGO is essentially a waste of time and money for a number of reasons. Firstly, even if you win the best a Judge can do is ask the LGO to look at their decision again. Secondly, the LGO use a devious tactic to block Judicial Reviews. If you have a good case they will offer to review their decision at the last minute. If you accept their offer you are stuck with your own costs up to that point and after another delay (Just long enough to stop you launching another Judicial Review of their original decision.) they just reaffirm their original decision. That means you would have top start the whole costly process again. And round and round the judicial mulberry bush you go. If you don't accept their offer to review their decision and proceed with a Judicial Review the Judge has no option but to make an award for costs against you. The rationale being that the Judge couldn't give you more than you have already been offered and as a result you have technically wasted the courts time. You then have to find the LGO's costs as well as your own. (If you have the money to take court action take it against the authority that caused the injustice in the first place, don't waste your time and money on the LGO.)
The third option is to tell others what an unfair and unjust system the LGO operate. The LGO hate to have their rock lifted because their perverse decisions are exposed to public scrutiny. Write to your MP, write to your local paper, write a blog, make a fuss and never give up. Keep asking the Ombudsman to review your case and one day they may realise that the only way they are going to get rid of you is if they can openly and honestly justify their original decision. The LGO can't argue with that because in a recent LGO survey carried out by BMG they identified that this was a key requirement. If the LGO expect complainants to accept their decisions they should give full reasoning behind every decision and show both parties the evidence they relied on. You can make it difficult for them to ignore a proper review.[Back to questions]
If you have any information that you think the public should be aware of please consider one of the following options, If you have information about a particular council write a short summary and submit it to the Local Government Watchers Blog If you have information about the LGO write a short summary and submit it to us. If you would like to publish a full account of your experience with the Local Government Ombudsman for the benefit of others please consider publishing the information either with us or on a blog. We can assure you it's very cathartic after years of being put down by the LGO and Local Government. The bottom line is that the more people who go public about their experience with the LGO the better. We are aware that thousands of people are dissastified with the LGO and when all these people let the public know they are dissatisfied something may be done about the problem. Don't keep your experience to yourself tell the world.[Back to questions]
Yes. In the past a few people have attempted to do something about the problem. The situation improved with the launch of the Ombudsman Watch website. That allowed people to realise that they were not alone in their struggle for justice against the LGO and Local Government. Quite a few people also gave evidence to the select committee inquiry into the 'Role and Effectiveness of the Local Government Ombudsman". More recently a number of Local Government Ombudsman Watchers also started blogging about the LGO. This website was started by members of the LGO watchers blog ring.[Back to questions]
It is not in the Governments interest for the truth about Local Government maladministration to be made public. That's why they continue to support such a corrupt institution. They were given the chance of improving the system when a Government select committee looked into the 'Role and Effectiveness of the Local Government Ombudsman'. Many complainants gave evidence to that inquiry. The interesting point being that no one gave evidence in support of the LGO. What was the eventual outcome? The Government replaced the chairman of the select committee and the matter was quietly dropped. If you are interested you can read the damning evidence against the LGO that was submitted by dissatisfied complainants to the select committee here. LGO support local government by hiding the true levels of maladministration. So consequently the Government hide the problems with the LGO.[Back to questions]
The LGO have an internal complaints procedure. Should you wish to complain about a member of staff you should write to the Deputy Ombudsman marking your letter 'Internal Complaint'. If you have a complaint about the Deputy Ombudsman you have no option but to write to the Ombudsman. (I can assure you that after the Deputy Ombudsman has dealt with your internal complaint you will have a complaint about the Deputy Ombudsman.) If you have a complaint about the Ombudsman you have no option but to write to the Ombudsman. Unlike the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman the Local Government Ombudsman is not accountable so you have no one to turn to if you have a complaint about the Local Government Ombudsman. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.[Back to questions]
The LGO often issue a provisional decision prior to a release of a formal decision. The LGO suggest this is so the authority and the complainant have a chance to comment on the decision and bring to the LGO's attention anything that they may have overlooked before their formal decision is released. In reality a provisional decision is very rarely changed. Floating a provisional decision allows them to test the water to see what happens.The LGO just use the information from the complainant to shore up a poor decision. This is one of the oldest tactics in the book and has been used by poor decision makers for years. The LGO never admit they are wrong they just shore up or hide bad decisions. A provisional decision is very rarely changed.[Back to questions]
During an investigation if an investigator finds evidence of maladministration the authority are given the chance to buy off the finding of maladministration and a formal report by offering to locally settle the complaint. Unlike normal settlements this has nothing to do with the complainant. The settlement is agreed between the LGO and the authority. Both benefit from a local settlement, the authority benefits because their is no report proving maladministration and the LGO benefit because they don't have to bother writing a report. The problem is that the complainants human rights to justice has been compromised because whether they choose to accept the paltry sum offered by the authority in settlement or not the LGO still terminate the complaint. The reason why the LGO call it a local settlement is just a smoke and mirrors attempt to distort reality. They do not have the statutory authority to settle a case. They only have the discretionary right to terminate an investigation. What they do is suggest to everyone that the have terminated an investigation because a local settlement has been reached. That gives everyone the impression that the case has been amicably settled between the authority and the complainant whilst in reality nothing could be further from the truth. The LGO has no statutory power to settle a case![Back to questions]
The Local Government Ombudsman's Comeback Procedure states The term comeback is used when a complaint has been determined without a formal report and the complainant alleges that one or more of the following apply: 1. The complaint, or a material part of it, has not been understood by the commission's staff; 2. Evidence submitted before termination has not been taken into account; 3. The council has not been telling the true story and evidence of this is provided; or 4. New information has been supplied about the original complaint If the complainant meets any of the stated criteria, the initial decision not to investigate their complaint should be reviewed by a senior officer.[Back to questions]
The definition of impartial is 'Impartiality is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather then on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons.' The LGO has a policy of believing the authority without any sort of prudent validation whilst expecting the complainant to provide overwhelming evidence. That policy is prejudicial because it clearly favours an authority over a complainant. One member of staff is even on record stating that an authority would not mislead (lie) to them. That assumption is prejudicial because it also favours the authority over the complainant.[Back to questions]
During 2005/6 some 18321 people submitted a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. Out of these the Local Government Ombudsman only issued 120 reports upholding (or partly upholding) a complaint of maladministration causing injustice. When you initially submit your complaint the odds of achieving that are a very slim 0.0066. That's only 66 complaints out of every 10,000 submitted or odds of about 150 to 1, no wonder local authorities like the LGO and complainants think they are just a waste of time.[Back to questions]
During 2005/6 the LGO recommended to councils that they pay a total of £1.67 million in compensation. Out of 18321 complaints 2692 of those either had their complaint upheld or settled by the LGO. If your complaint is upheld about £620 on average (Note: councils are not obliged in law to follow the LGO's recommendation so you may end up with nothing)[Back to questions]
The LGO have always given the authorities much more time to respond to their letters than they give a complainant. (So much for impartiality) The LGO even extended the time they allowed authorities to respond because the majority were missing the deadline. Authorities can and do ignore it with impunity. All the LGO ever do is mention the authority's response times in their annual letters. If they ever get to the point where the majority of authorities are missing the deadline, no doubt the LGO will just extend it like they have done in the past. In many cases the LGO is also guilty of wasting time. Delays of up to six weeks have been recorded between the LGO passing on information from one party to the other. The LGO and the authority under investigation can delay the proceedings for as long as they want. That way you will be exhausted by their complaints procedure long before you exhaust their complaints procedure.
The Local Government Ombudsman was set up by statute in 1974. The Government of the day used the 1974 Local Government Act Part III to empower the LGO.[Back to the top]