Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Mr Williams

These observations are written with the experience of four years dealing with the local planning office (East Staffordshire Borough Council) regarding illegal tipping and failure to follow planning guide lines and legal requirements. All facts can be backed up with written evidence.

Ombudsman Procedure Handling Observations

1. The Ombudsman staff allocated to the complaint had no experience of planning procedures or the laws involved.

2. If the complaint, which was the case with myself involved another government organisation the Ombudsman requested you raised a separate ombudsman complaint with the others departments, ie Environment Agency, Stafford County Council, Bristol Planning Authority.

3. They only acted on detailed information provided by complainant, they had no in-depth knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of the other departments stated above. This in effect meant the complainant had to use to Freedom of Information Act themselves to obtain alleged evidence of Malpractice/Malfeasance. And the complainant had to supply the questions for the accused to answer based on information supplied through Freedom of Information which the accused often stalled and at time refused to supply, on occasions legal action having to be taken by the Freedom of Information staff to obtain said information.

4. The Ombudsman staff seemed unable to supply or be willing to obtain written proof of statements off the offending authorities, they just accept they are being told true facts by the authorities which was not the case on several occasions during my experience. This was probably a result of the lack of knowledge on the subject they were investigating made in Point 1.

5. The Ombudsman staff do not appear to follow any legal framework in investigating complaints and appears reluctant to take any of the various departments to task on their procedures and practices.

6. The Ombudsman staff appear to be viewed by the accused authorities as an irritation and time consuming inconvenience that does not have any disciplinary weight of authority to change proceedings or impose adequate penalties, ie no teeth. No improvement of procedures or practice changes were advised to complainant after four years of investigation.

7. The practice of requiring a separate complaint to be raised against each government department involved in a dispute seems very unprofessional and in effect means mass duplication and makes the procedure very political as the accused authorities are very adept at exploiting the “grey areas” between themselves and buck passing, ie Planning Authority >> Borough Council >> County Council >> Environment Agency >> Planning Inspectorate >> back to Planning Authority. And you have to take your complaint out against each one individually using their related Ombudsman or complaints body. And in the Environment Agency case your local MP.

8. After having had two judgements passed in favour of the complainant and published as such in the local press the Borough Council CEO still stated the Ombudsman was incorrect and the Borough Council was correct, this shows almost contempt for the Ombudsman investigations and findings, no change in attitude or regard for due process.

Ombudsman System

The system appears to have very little impact on the authorities pursued by it and seems to be used as a way of deflecting unwanted attention and inconvenience to another department which they know has no real authority and due to the procedures will result in the complainant giving up their fight for justice, Those that succeed in gaining a judgement in their favour having little or no compensation for the effort or injustice the claim warrants, ie £1,200 between three people with proven cases awarded in my case which took three years, This to me seems a complete waste of taxpayers money on a Government department no better than the other departments it is supposed to be Policing and is in effect considered very menial by said authorities.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my disappointment.

March 2012

Prepared 16th July 2012