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Can We Trust the Ombudsman With Our Complaints?

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 13 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Ombudsman Complaints Complaining

The local government ombudsmen are supposed to be there to represent the interests of the public but they have been accused of bias and maladministration. Can we really trust them with our complaints?

Watching the Watchmen

If somebody has an unresolved complaint about a local council then the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) is there to investigate whether it is justified, offer independent advice and act as an impartial referee between the two parties.

Or at least that is their appointed role - one group strongly believes that they are allied with the organisation they are assigned to guard and dismissive of those they are paid to protect.

The LGO Watch

The campaign consumer group, Local Government Ombudsman Watch (LGO Watch), has been set up in an effort to weed out bad practise within local English government by exposing the bias and maladministration within the Local Government Ombudsman’s office.

LGO Watch is far from the work of a few disgruntled complainants, even the LGO’s own customer satisfaction survey revealed that a whopping 73% of complainants were dissatisfied by the outcome of their individual cases. Since its founding in 2003, the Watch has amassed a legion of supporters nationwide, and a similar Scottish watch has since been set up to target the corruption in local government north of the border.

Pro-Council Bias Allegations

With less than 2% of submitted complaints declared by the LGO as maladministration, there is a certain weight to the claims that the tax-funded service is not wholly committed to securing justice for the public.

One reason the LGO Watch provides to explain allegations of pro-council bias within the office is the alarming fact that all three current LGOs were themselves previously chief executives of local authorities. In fact evidence shows that many of the LGO’s investigators previously worked in local government.

If you took a damning complaint about the local police force to an independent, publicly-funded investigation and adjudication group, would it be fair to have a former chief of that same organisation handle your case?

Citizen Insurance Support

The LGO Watch is further vindicated in their crusade by the ample correspondence they receive from citizens complaining about the LGO’s bias. Many of these people have suffered anguish and even illness by their experience with the watchdog.

The greatest source of grievance about local councils and the LGO is their unaccountability in dealing with the vulnerable members of society, such as those suffering economic hardship, poor health or substandard living conditions.

Other Watches

The LGO Watch is not alone in their surveillance over the bad practice of the LGO, other websites share their impassioned feelings of injustice and have set out to expose their misdemeanours. These include the LGO Reporter Blog, the Public Service Ombudsman Watches and Trevor R Nunn’s ‘Local Government Ombudsman Watcher’ page, which is dedicated to all those who have “suffered injustice because of the unfair, biased and unaccountable LGO”.

Is There A Solution?

It’s all very well highlighting the failings of the LGO but does the Watch have a realistic solution to the problem?

The LGO Watch calls for the closure of the LGO and its replacement with a genuinely independent local government complaints commission. This new office would not employ anybody with previous influence within the local council. The ideal of the group, and no doubt most of the public at large, would be for councils to have something to fear when people complain to the local government watchdog.

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Despair - Your Question:
I'm having problems with my housing association (Home Group). Anti social behaviour is making my life a misery.I report the problems to their own special anti social team or my housing officer only for them to be logged and quietly buried.I thought about the housing ombudsman but it seems like this will be a waste of time too. Housing associations are a national scandal.I wonder if this is all deliberate government policy - to make social housing as uncomfortable as possible so as to make private renting more attractive.

Our Response:
You can also report anti-social behaviour via the link here . Much depends upon what the anti-social behaviour is and whether it comes under the housing association remit.
ComplaintExpert - 14-Dec-17 @ 10:04 AM
I'm having problems with my housing association (Home Group). Anti social behaviour is making my life a misery. I report the problems to their own special anti social team or my housing officer only for them to be logged and quietly buried. I thought about the housing ombudsman but it seems like this will be a waste of time too.Housing associations are a national scandal. I wonder if this is all deliberate government policy - to make social housing as uncomfortable as possible so as to make private renting more attractive...
Despair - 13-Dec-17 @ 10:50 AM
I'm in exactly the same position as Mungo. Access to care problems. Fault found in draft letter but no injustice. I don't know how these definitions are made but if care was wrongly removed (fault) surely there's an injustice? What disabled people suffer - not being understood, believed, all whilst unwell, is outrageous. And all this country does is take away from them.
Downy - 6-Dec-17 @ 9:55 AM
TO GEORGE YOU SHOULD COMPLAIN TO OFSTEAD...OR THE MPHEAD OF SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION...BUT OFSTEAD..HAVE THE POWERS TO CLOSE A SCHOOL AND ARREST..But look outside the box...see the report of police ESSEX POLICE COVER UP FOR ALL PEDO AND ESPECIALLY THEIR OWN..LOOK FOR THE DIRT...YOU CAN MAKE A CASE OF DISCRIMINATION ECHR...CHECK OUT ARTICLES OF ECHR. LOOK FOR THE DIRT...INCLUDING JUDGES...
LESLEY - 6-Dec-17 @ 8:54 AM
The paradox is if you have suffered injustice at the hands of the council you know by going to the LGO you are only going to further compound that injustice and create more misery and psychological harm to yourself but what do you do? They are only option if you don't have money to access legal help. Been to LGO about 10 times now over as many years. Same issue. Keeps snowballing. Access to social care. Keeps making me re complain and wait two years each time for Ombudsman to conclude in favour of council EVEN when they admit there has been wrongdoing. Make me submit separate te applications to PHSO and LGO only for it to be 'joint investigation' and LGO end up dealing with it and finding in favour of council. Left disabled with no social care and caused mental illness. Life ruined.
Mungo at the Crossro - 4-Dec-17 @ 3:28 AM
I got email from LGO today sayingthey did not find the council at faults. UK local councils can get away with corruptions and they are not accountable for their maladministration. I feel like I am living in a third world country.
Mr Back - 24-Nov-17 @ 6:15 PM
The LGO Watch doesn't exist any more, they did however manage to put their concerns to a Parliamentary Committee but no real change has taken place. Sadly it's pointless complaining to the bias LGO and you can see how Councils get away with some much corruption given that those who are supposed to oversee them are equally corrupt. The result is peoples compliants being ignored and incidents such as the Grenfell Fire Disaster occurring along with biased public inquires. The LGO just demonstrates how corrupt and disgusting this country really is.
Coventry Sucks!!! - 8-Nov-17 @ 1:45 PM
Can I have an email address for LGO Watch to cc against the challenge I'm about to send to LGO's draft decision. I'd like to say I'm shocked to realise that if LGO advises an LA should investigate and the LA refuses then the LGO is happy to make do with what it has.But I've slowly realised over the past 2 years that if LAs refuse to look into anything then there will be no information to review and our Local Authorities can get away with what they like. I didn't realise LGO had no legal qualifications (just looked at the Job Description). My eyes have opened to the reality of the society we are really living in.Micky Mouse state?
Jop - 5-Nov-17 @ 12:51 AM
PS - I also gave Northumbria Police a number of documents, when they visited us including some relating to the council and LGO
Coventry Stinks!!!! - 25-Oct-17 @ 7:20 PM
The LGO just write nonsense, and they don't care if that nonesense is the truth or even legal. Mick King the actual Local Government Ombudsman used to work at Northumberland County Council. Northumbria Police have just launched an investgation in to the finances and governance of Northumberland County Council according to media reports. So that speaks volumes.
Coventry Stinks!!!! - 25-Oct-17 @ 6:51 PM
LGO takes minimum 20 working days to decide whether your case is worth investigating. If it is worth investigating then you get an email/letter saying LGO is passing your case to investigating teams. Then you wait another 10-15 working days toreceive another email/letter which saying an investigator is appointed and mentioning that you need to wait some more weeks for investigator's finding etc etc.
TT - 20-Oct-17 @ 7:38 PM
Disturbed to read what is posted here. I have submitted a complaint to LGO and wonder how long they take before they decide to investigate it or not? I note pages of criteria which have to be met before LGO will investigate - not either/or criteria but also/and criteria. Pages and pages. Complaint is against Stockport MBC planning and an unsafe grant of planning permission. Record of such complaints (as shown on LGO website) is 0/13 where 0 is the legitimate needs of the people and 13 the jack boot of the fascist state as wielded by the LGO. So I have little chance of LGO finding in my favour. I do have positive things to say about ombudsmen - I used FOS once and was awarded £122,000. Rock n' roll. But I now understand why the lying Stockport MBC were goading me to use LGO. Stockport MBC, through online record, can lie with impunity, because LGO have always supported them. And within minutes I found LGO on-line decision that was clearly officious, high-handed, arrogant and wrong. But I suspect if I take the lot of them to court I would lose because Judiciary are all part of the same cabal. My argument is that the people have reasonable expectation for planning applications to be determined correctly, according to planning guidelines, rules, and procedures, which obviously alter from time to time. I reckoned that I had got Stockport MBC banged to rights - until I read all the sad stories on here about the LGO. I wonder if anyone can advise how long it is likely to take LGO to contact me with an indication as to whether LGO will investigate or not?
tmbrian - 13-Oct-17 @ 6:26 PM
The LGO are something you would expect in a third world country, they are an absoloute disgrace and Parliament should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this organisation to continue to pervert the course of justice. Still at least I don't live near or work in Coventry.
Coventry Sucks!!!! - 10-Oct-17 @ 8:45 PM
Single bereaved father child with special needs. Was on benifits for 2 years. Council never paid my council tax. Entitled. Every time I paid a backdated Vil they produced another backdated bill. Constantly paying off my debts. They sent bailiffs.difnt show up. Paid off debts through bailiffs. Then council produce yet another paid bill. Went through the complaints tiers. Council kept lying and changing facts. Moving payments. All covered under the ombudsman code of practice. I offered to send all my evidence he said it wasn't needed. In his decision letter he agreed whole heartedly with the council. It's yet another governmental body unregulated like and enigma in a riddle. In my response I noted that the councils final decision was almost identical to the lgo. Uh huh what a surprise. Shameful thing is no one really cares
JasperC - 25-Sep-17 @ 11:56 AM
My husbsnd died while lgo gave even more time to LA social services to reasses his mental healrh needs due permanent brain damage. Not even response from them. Inquest January.
Widowed - 15-Sep-17 @ 5:45 PM
Ridiculous is all I have to say about LGO. They are not authorised to judge individual council employees under the Local Govt Act 1974. Hence maladministration is near impossible to prove. They cannot comment on any complaints if court process was involved, hence councils run around with impunity if they summons you. Its astonishing.People need to consolidate and there needs tobe a link here for LGO WATCH
Forest Gate - 25-Aug-17 @ 11:01 PM
Rugby Borough Council (RBC) is allowing a 3 storey high house to be built at right behind my property, only inches away from the rear fence. I objected to the planning as it was not inline with Government planning policy. RBC totally ignored my objection. I'm told to complain to LGO Ombusman.After reading people comments on here, I don't know what to do now.
From Rugby - 19-Aug-17 @ 1:42 PM
The ombudsman has refused to investigate my complaint; it has not even attempted to make contact to take my view and any supporting evidence. It has become as cheapened as any councils' it investigates.
jones - 28-Jul-17 @ 5:31 PM
Dear LGO Watch, My case is with Tower Hamlet Council and Housing stock management company, 'Tower Hamlet Homes'. Which the LGO have been investigating. Please can you let me know how to get in contact with LGO Watch. Regards Mr Z Ahmed
Tip - 19-Jul-17 @ 5:33 PM
I have been trying to get the lgo to look into the disgusting bullying and lies from a children's service up to date nothing..... I have sent them proof that the I have and the local council have lost!!!! To prove it still nothing has been done 4 years this has been going on what do I do now????
Ladyp - 15-Jul-17 @ 1:43 PM
I have used the council ombudsman as far as my dealings were concerned they r completely inadequate and I'm in total agreement that all these ombudsmans should be completely removed from whomever they are investigating so as not to b biased the land registry is exactly the same In my case the same councillor on a different subject reared his head and managed to completely put the same bias back in to a situation They seem to use one example to say something is incorrect and the same example to say it is correct There is no hope of winning against the council even in law For there ombudsman to say that they r responsible to the general public not to waste their funds when if the council kept to there own regulations in my case a simple letter would have been the only cost I am convinced that all this is cut backs by whichever government and council officials are there simply to say a BIG no to everything
P - 1-Jul-17 @ 10:36 AM
Hello, Can anyone help and guide me. I've had an ongoing battle with my local council. After I separated the council wouldn't allow me the SPD. They wanted to know the new address for my former partner, I knew it,but as I'm not employeed by them, I didn't tell them and withheld the money until my discount was applied. Anyway, by some unscrupulous methods, they gained a charging order, I went in front of a District Judge, to my surprise, the Judge was absolutely great, she adjourned the final hearing, giving both parties time to exchange the evidence etc. Which me did. The story in between is rather lengthy, however, everything done, proof exchanged.On the last minute on the day of the hearing, a nasty solicitor attended with some weird exaggerated story. The Judge saw through his deceit and ordered him to remain quite. The Judge then turned to me and said Mr X I am not happy with this, there's not a great deal I can do but suggest, you seek urgent legal advice, you have 40 days. Not being a great fan of the Law Society ((a society, within a society to protect law firms) I decided to tackle the situation. Who better, but the one with 'first handle knowledge'. Before I wrote my first letter, two days after the court hearing i received a letter. On a plain piece of paper 80gsm white bond, a letter stating I broke the privacy law, and under the harassment act 1997 etc. etc. As we left court I was walk behind the solicitors as they were laughing, not knowing I was behind them. When they stopped at the cafe, I snapped a picture for my legal records in a public place, of two public servants. Bearing in mind this letter has no markings of the organisation which was being represented orher then a scanned signature and title 'solicitor ti the council', The envelope did have the name of the council as it was franked. I then went into a legal mode, replied to him quoted him the 'real law' on photographing in the public etc. Letters also went to all others involved in this extortion, fraud and deceit. I demanded, very peacefully answers to my questions using words they've probably never heard, law which they won't understand (after all, most are only paralegals). I couldn't afford to be threatening, as i) I was lawfully right in asking questions ii) my intention was to take it to court. The reply came to me by way of two constables at my door. When the door knocked, I opened it, one constable asked, are you Mr X, I said yes. They asked to come in, I let them in. One constable asked, did you write a letter to the council, to which I replied, 'no, I wrote about 6 letters' I offered to go to my office and get rhem copies. He said, I have a copy and have read it. I asked, is there a problem, to which he replies...well, no....I don't understand it but it's certainly not threatening. Then why are you here, I asked, he said I don't know, we had orders from the top. They then left. I took the name of the 'one at the top'
Unfair system - 11-May-17 @ 7:45 AM
It's not just the LGO, but in my experience, all ombudsmen. Energy is one which seems not to have a watcher's site, but the Parliamentary and health services does, the financial one does, and so does the Scottish equivalent of the LGO. Various law and courts related ones too - who are our last resort - also have systems which are deliberately obtuse, vague, slow, and who mismatch what we write with how they reply; they patronise and frustrate; they assess with vital evidence missing; they wilfully miss the point of your complaint and refuse to uphold many. There's no appeal; you have to fight to get to the independent assessor, if there is one, who can only assess the handling and not the outcome. I know people who've been left without money, with growing bills and threats of disconnection, in health crisis, and still the ombudsman have taken over a year, and often find no fault. There seems to be an increasing trend against finding in customers' favour. They disappear for months talking to the other side but give the public tiny deadlines. And the application forms (now often online) are very limiting, meaning that we can't put our case properly so that the outcome is skewed. We need an ombudsman overhaul.
Watcher of all ombud - 10-May-17 @ 10:42 PM
Kindly send me the petition against the ombudsman because I totally agree with you . And what more can we do and how can I go to judiciary review ?
Bear - 24-Apr-17 @ 7:22 AM
Can anyone help me with my ongoing problems with LGO and local planning g dept it has been going on now since 2005
Eil - 20-Apr-17 @ 2:00 PM
My complaint is that at a meeting in April 2016 the local council passed our park home site to become fully residential and then wouldn't let us have it and took it to a meeting in May 2016 and disallowed the vote the events were not recorded properly in those 2 minutes of the meeting and we have been battling since with the said Council and the LGO has backed the Council in every respect
Eil - 15-Apr-17 @ 12:31 PM
It is difficult to say who is the most corrupt but certainly Local Authority corruption is increasing and the body of people who are paid to control such a thing are completely ineffectual in their role.This of course allows Local Authorities to do what they want without any accountability or policing. Can a body of people such as the Local Government Ombudsman Service carry out a job knowingly participating in a process which is not true fair and independent ? I can't imagine having such a job.There are sadly lots of dishonest people in this world but when they have the title of investigator in my view that is what they must do. If they don't then they should be counted amongthose people whom Oscar Wild described as being in pursuit of the 'uneatables' (when referring to 'fox hunting' ).Sadly that is how I consider them. .
Alan Walton - 10-Apr-17 @ 8:29 PM
These people are more fraudulent and corrupt than the ones they are supposed to investigate.
Henry - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:29 AM
I thought - no I hoped that the LGO would assist myself and my neighbours with the most appalling actions of Durham Council- yet they have stood together and produced the most disgraceful self serving report that shows no due dilligence or any application to the law. What can we do to have this disgraceful organisation refused funding?
sari - 30-Mar-17 @ 7:08 AM
Continued... We submitted a complaint toSouth Lanarkshire Council about this manager and our complaint was passed to that same manager for investigation????? the outcome? well yet another thing they refuse to acknowledge. We asked for a new assessment to assess our sons needs and so far this has been refused on the grounds that they feel there is no need for another assessment. so why did i say Labour was bullying my son? well here it goes: We approached the Scottish government for help and they replied that ministers cannot intervene on council decisions, so that despite the law breaking and bullying they would not help. we approached our local council representatives from Labour SNP and Conservativesfor help and advice: SNP are trying their best but insist they cannot intervene in education decisions: Labour said they would look into it then did not reply and have since refused to answer any further contact: Conservatives just ignored us without even a reply. So at this point we had John Swinneys department and Nicola Sturgeons' secretary state they cannot get involvedas ministers cannot intervene in council decisionsREMEMBER THIS POINT!!!! When the CSP was refused we received an undated letter stating why, so far no reason for bashing Labour HOWEVER!!!!!!!!! We received an email showingSouth Lanarkshire Council and Labour had breached the Councillors code of conduct sections 3.4 inclusive and 3.5.5 and had broken data protection act 1998 by sending an email regarding their CSP decision to an unintended 3rd party. The email was sent asking a high ranking elected Labour official to approve the CSP refusal and had a copy of the letter we received for this individual to approve before it was sent to us?????? Now we had been told previously that NO MINISTERS OR ELECTED OFFICIALS can get involved yet the council are asking the a Labour party elected official to approve an education decision???????????????? When we contacted South Lanarkshire Council and they have stated that the individual involved should not have been asked and it was an admin error??????So the head ofSouth Lanarkshire Council admin mistakenly sent an email to this individuals secretary on a first name basis and asked asked for this individual in person/nameby accident??????? I contacted Labour for an explanation and they refuse to give me one stating i would need to contact the individual myself but i already did and he states no such email was sent. So South Lanarkshire Council have broken 5 laws and Labour have broken the Councillors code of conduct and the complaint process will take roughly another 3-4 months to draw a conclusion conveniently after the local elections, i refuse to wait that long and will start a campaign to show the country how Labour are willing to flaunt the laws and regulations. despite all this public standards commission say there is no evidence to conduct an investigation
George - 17-Mar-17 @ 12:53 PM
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