Additional memorandum submitted by Tony Redmond, Local Government Ombudsman (CS 44)

I am willing to correct a point made by the Rt Honourable Vernon Coaker when the Public Bill Committee met on Thursday 28th January. At the morning session he had referred to the Local Government Ombudsmen's powers to recommend financial redress. According to the Hansard record, he corrected this in the afternoon session, as follows:

"This morning, responding to amendment 181, which provides that pupils and parents would not have a right to monetary compensation where a governing body, head teacher or local authority failed to comply with any element of the pupil and parent guarantee, I said that the ombudsman has a long-standing power to require local authorities to provide financial compensation and that he would be able to do so in relation to a breach of any the guarantees where it was the local authority's responsibility to deliver the guarantee. In fact, that is not entirely accurate, and I apologise to the Committee.

The Local Government Ombudsman has a long-standing power to make recommendations to a local authority about how to remedy an in justice sustained by a complainant, and the local authority can, on considering the report, decide for itself whether it wishes to make a payment to the complainant. However, contrary to what I said this morning, under the local Government Act 1974 the local government said this morning, under the Local Government Act 1974 the local government ombudsman cannot make an award against a local authority; nor can he recommend directly that it make financial compensation. That is also true of the provisions in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. On that basis, it is even less likely that a parent could seek to gain compensation from pursuing a complaint through the ombudsman, even in relation to matters such as one-to-one tuition, which are also the responsibility of the local authority. I hope that helps every member of the Committee."

I regret to say that this is wrong. There is nothing in the Local Government Act 1974 Part 3 and 3A or the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 that precludes a recommendation of financial redress. The Ombudsmen's recommendations to authorities do, in appropriate cases, include financial redress and in the case of R oao Bernard v London Borough of Enfield CO/1060/02 [2002] EWHC 2282 the court adopted the Ombudsmen's financial remedy guidance as "the best available United Kingdom comparables".

The Ombudsmen's position on remedies was referred to in my recent letter to the Committee of 29 January 2010. There I said that where we find a complaint to be justified our recommendations may include action we consider the school should take to remedy the injustice to the pupil and/or parent.

Our response to the DCSF consultation in 2008 on "A new way of handling complaints about school issues" referred to occasions where financial redress might be appropriate.

In our letter to Rt Hon Ed Balls of 13 August 2009 when we were given the opportunity to comment on the white Paper "Your Child Your Schools, Our Future: Building a 21st century schools system in respect of the Pupil Parent Guarantees we said that redress might take the form of restoring a service or entitlement, identifying compensation or seeking improvements to services, systems and procedures.

The Ombudsmen do not recommend financial redress in many cases and where we do our recommendations are frequently modest and always proportionate.

The final point is that ability to make recommendations for financial redress is a power shared by all the Public Sector Ombudsmen Schemes.

February 2010