Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

As the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman, I very much welcome the Committee’s inquiry into the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) and I value the opportunity to submit written evidence to the Committee.

In my role as Parliamentary Ombudsman I am also an ex-officio member of the Commission for Local Administration, the body that runs the LGO service.

My evidence will focus on how my Office, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, works with the LGO.

The function, purpose and remit of the LGO, including the proposed restructuring of the Commission

The role of the LGO to provide an independent service that considers complaints about councils (and other authorities) is a crucial one in our democracy.

In considering how the LGO operates both the LGO and the Department for Communities and Local Government should keep in mind the British & Irish Ombudsman Association’s (BIOA) five key criteria for membership:




Openness and Transparency.


The arrangements for handling complaints

The jurisdictions of my Office and that of the LGO do not overlap, however complaints from members of the public can often relate to the actions of two different bodies, such as a Local Authority and a central Government agency regarding planning and the environment, or involve both NHS services and social care provision.

Both my Office and the LGO are committed to providing a comprehensive and seamless service to the public wherever possible.

A 2007 Regulatory Reform Order empowers our offices to conduct joint investigations, enabling us to work together collaboratively to address the issues raised by the complainant.

This arrangement for handling complaints is increasingly being used with specialist staff in each office working closely together to improve the efficiency of the investigation and the benefit to the member of the public as a result.

In the past year we have jointly published, amongst others, reports relating to the living arrangements and care provided to a man with Down’s syndrome and about the care and support provided to a vulnerable person living independently in the community.

The legislation, systems, and procedures that enable bodies to work together to deliver services jointly are often complex, especially to the layperson. In turn, the complaints processes by which someone can complain about them are also confusing especially as the roles of the bodies are often intertwined.

Conducting joint investigations enable us to tell the full story. Had we looked separately at only the matters within our own jurisdictions we would not have been able to come to a view on the overall impact of the failings to these individuals.

As with many of our investigations, in these instances there was a personal remedy for the complainant, with responsibility apportioned where things had gone wrong, tangible recognition for what they had been through and an apology and financial remedy. There was also a wider public benefit through systemic change and improvement in the way that services are delivered as a result of the bodies in question producing an action plan describing what each had done to ensure that they had learnt the lessons from the failings identified and what they planned to do, including timescales, to avoid a recurrence of these failings in the future.

I stand ready to assist the Committee with the Inquiry in any way I can and to offer further written or oral evidence if the Committee would find that useful. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information or clarification.

UK Parliamentary Ombudsman
and Health Service Ombudsman for England

March 2012

Prepared 16th July 2012