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Can We Trust the Ombudsman With Our Complaints?

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 14 Nov 2018 | 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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@Threatened with leg: In answer to your question, you would not be at risk of any costs by going to the Local Government Ombudsman. They are not court-based. You are not charged for turning to them. It is only if you decided to take the council to Court, that you might be liable for costs if you lost the case, but I don’t think even that would be in all circumstances. It might be if the council offered to settle before Court, but you refused, or if you didn’t first try other avenues, like the LGO, before going to Court. I hope this helps. I don't know why that council is employing expensive lawyers to deal with your complaint, at tax payers expense. It looks like an intimidation tactic.
CorruptLegal - 14-Nov-18 @ 11:12 AM
Dear Sirs, I received a distorted, factually inaccurate and incomplete response to my complaint against a department of a County Council from an expensive firm of lawyers employed by the council to investigate my complaint. The letter I received started by stating that it would involved an "inordinate amount of time and cost" for their client (the council) to respond to my complaint in full and therefore that it would respond "only to what we consider to be the salient aspects". It ended with what I consider to be a threat and an attempt to intimidate me from taking the matter to the LGO, stating that: "In the event that proceedings are issued against our client, they will be defended in full and our client will have no option but to seek to recover its costs in defending any such claim from you.We would estimate, at this early stage, that our client's costs of defending the claim are likely to exceed £50,000". Please could you tell me if I am at risk of costs in excess of this sum by complaining to the LGO? Many thanks
Threatenned with leg - 28-Oct-18 @ 1:42 AM
I wonder if there is anyone out there who can help me.I am trying to get access to a charities accounts,not the summarised ones available on the Charities commission website,but a breakdown of how their income is generated,and itemised invoices over £500.I have applied to the charity concerned,but they reply that as they are a not a publicly funded body,they are not subject to the FOI act(very convenient).I then contacted the charities commission for guidance,it actually states in their guidance notes that it is a legal requirement that ALL charities MUST make the accounts available to the public on request,and yet i've just received a reply from them that states that it doesn't say they must provide a breakdown,so what's the point?This is only a small charity but i feel their is something wrong,with the way their income is generated,and the fact that they claim to spend an average of £16,000 per annum on furnishings and fittings,with no apparent updating of said items.There is also the matter of £9,000 spent on legal expenses?Of course i have no proof of wrongdoing,and i'm never going to find any when their accounts are a secret.Any ideas anyone,where do i go next.
cabman - 17-Oct-18 @ 4:15 PM
I am convinced that the local ombudsman service attached to the Test Valley Borough Council is anything but independent and fair. The Planning enforcement is thoroughly corrupt and arrogant in the knowledge that they are untouchable. Getting justice is impossible and stressful, so you just give up.
Krishna - 15-Oct-18 @ 2:46 PM
The Legal Ombudsman is corrupt, and actively falsifies evidence to justify their criminal decision. Ignores complaints, refuses to investigate when a complaint of falsifying evidence is made and is clearly there to protect corrupt, criminal solicitors and barristers and not the consumer! How do I fight this blatant corruption?
Craig - 10-Sep-18 @ 1:57 PM
PHSO are corrupt, as is LGO as is the Legal Ombudsman. Having had experiences with all three of them I have been staggered as to how far they will go to cover-up and deny blatant evidence in front of them. It's too long a tale to tell, but suffice to say it really is corruption and they often collude with the body you are complaining about, and the public is paying for this corruption.
Anon - 27-Aug-18 @ 1:12 AM
When I complained to the local government ombudsman they told me to come back when I have evidence, so I came back with evidence and they just said I'm mentally ill and they are imposing their vexatious policy.
Jack - 25-Aug-18 @ 6:49 PM
I'mdisabledinawheelchairandI'vemadeseveralcomplaintstothelgoaboutthewayIhavebeen treatedbyquiteafewlocalauthoritiesacrossLondon. ThelgotendtostrikeoutmycomplaintsoutoftimewhichIthinkisaloteasierforthem. IwasforcedtoliveonthestreetsinmywheelchairbyonelocalauthorityandIobviouslywasn'tabletomakeacomplaintaboutthelocalauthoritywhoputmeonthestreets. WhenIfinallygotoffthestreetsIthenmadeacomplainttothelgobuttheyquicklystruckoutmycomplaintoutoftime. TheyjustwouldnotacceptIwasstreethomelessasareasonforbringingmycomplaintlatetothem. IhadaheartattackearlierthisyearandhavebeendiagnosedwithStableAnginaandType 2Diabetes. ThishasbeencausedbybeingforcedtoliveinhotelswithNOcookingfacilitiesandNOfridgeforover3yearsandgettingNOhelpandsupportfromSocialServices. Ifeellikebecauseiaskforhelplocalauthoritiesdo thingstotryandkillyouoff. Itsagameoflifetothemanditshouldbecriminalwhattheydo.
Jay - 23-Aug-18 @ 1:51 PM
I have made several complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman, four in total. I have also looked at what LGO says it does. I am astonished by the results because there was manifest "maladministration" at the council, its officers and membersand by the Parish Council its members and clerk in a number of ways. The most serious allegation against the LGO is that I was given 14 days to respond to THREE draft decisions at the festive season. The complaints had been with LGO for many weeks and were complex, but well organised. This demonstrated partiality or recklessness or both and I had to take this further before I was allowed more time. 14 days is usually the time allowed to respond to ONE complaint. Several weeks then elapsed before the final decisions were issued. This was at a time when other disturbing events were taking place in my private life. If LGO does not uphold your complaint you can apply for Judicial review of the LGO: but you have not Judicially reviewed the original decision so LGO can count onyour not having the fire power to go that far. There is no body of case law by which the terms "maladministration " and "injustice" are defined. Why? Because those that go to LGO go there when it s unreasonable for them to use legal means: ergo nothing is handed down by the judges because nobody who has gone to LGO can afford to getjudicial decisions about what these terms mean. I feel that LGO is not free from interference by others, that it strains to find reasons why not to favour the complainant and gives the go-by to anything that could help the complainant, including saying it does not look at the evidence "forensically". Those who say, well LGO has decided, therefore you have had a fair procedure and you should be satisfied with the outcome simply misunderstand how LGO does not deliver what it says on the tin
WB - 19-Aug-18 @ 4:37 PM
The LGO failed to investigate the main aspect of my complaint and instead went off to make enquiries on a side complaint and whatever they decided was relevant. Only to turn around to say they were satisfied with local Council and tried to imply I was unreasonable. It is ridiculous. When I complained, they simply said they didn’t have the powers to enquire further, even though they initially agreed they could investigate my problem with my local Council. Utterly frustrating and a waste of time the LGO is.
Bay - 15-Aug-18 @ 6:11 PM
Please leave your details and help our family to be reunited again and bring people responcible to justice as public bodies are supost to and paid to support the public not confuse them and blame them for there mustakes if public bodies listened to publuc there may not have made unlawful mistakes we all want justice and working together will hopefully bring justice to all public bodies involvement and ignorance.
Please help - 4-Aug-18 @ 4:39 PM
Here is the latest: I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Local Government Ombudsman and received an automated response which said I would get a reference number and contact details within 2-3 days it is now 10 days, despite a reminder from me after 6 days I have still heard nothing.
Help - 26-Jul-18 @ 12:14 PM
Following the suspension of market inspectors my Council decided to go to the private sector temporarily to replace them. Unfortunately my Council took their eye of the ball and subsequently put the "Street Trading Account" in the RED by almost £1M and then expected the street traders themselves to pay for it through increases in their pitch payments. Why is it never the Council employees who are held responsible?.
Help - 23-Jul-18 @ 1:34 PM
public services ombudsman wales would not investigate my complaint about community council for maladministration because 1. he could not see I had suffered loss / hardship / injustice 2comm council are generaly part time, and don't have same resources as larger bodies. This of course is common in most comm council. how could he know the council's capacity without an investigation ? I asked council for complaints procedure, but it did not have one, and took 5 months to establish one when a model for councils is easily available on internet. It decided and recorded in official meeting minutes to pay an individual £500 with public money (breaching financial regulations it adopted 6 months earlier) it was told from outside the council this was unlawful. recorded in minutes that expert said there was no evidence of wrong doing because a cheque was not written, but after FOI request council can not provide any evidence of the expert's alledged opinion.Expert stated he had no record of responding on the issueOmbud said I had not suffered because of this decision to use £500 of public money. 10 years ealier the council lost sums to fraud by clerk because councillors were singing blank cheques. Case made headlines. Recorded in minutes it had failed to resolve my complaint using steps 1 and 2 when emails confirm I had not reached step 2. council relased my personal data on website, and breached 2 of my FOI requests t If I report someone polluting a river to the environment authority, or someone vandalising public property to the Police, I will not have to justify personal loss / hardship or injustice before they take action useless - will never use Ombud again.
Rico - 19-Jul-18 @ 11:19 PM
To Jo and "want a chat with me" and all...............I think we are agreed something needs to be done. but we need media involvement I have been everywhere, despite all the information I have provided below no one is listening. We need to get everyone we know to tell James Brokenshire MP the Minister responsible (see message below) and then find an investigative journalist, TV programme and/or use Twitter, facebook and other social media to create a chain reaction with all our contacts. ..................We need one message to be circulated everywhere. I am happy to provide my contact details IF YOU ARE CONCERNED LEAVE A SHORT MESSAGE
Help and please help - 18-Jul-18 @ 12:15 PM
I unintentionally made companies appear bad trying and being told that they cannot help me or my family by sending there responce to a public body whom may have made these companies aware i was doing so ive been told early this year by an adviser that they concerned im being expoited i have never done anything for publicity purposes only to show i am being honest when ive tried to get help during care proceedings to prevent our family losing a child and not for my our gainwe have always tried to act in oue families best interests but do not feel we are seen as so all we want and hope for is our family reunited again but feel it is looking this way to correct the mistakes that were made during previous years and a re trial has gone on and no contact for ourselves have we been made so it maybe for the family whom was fortunate to have the child people ive spoke to asking about this if it did concern us look at me or speak with discust as to say you are disabled how can you look after a child i do have limited mobility and it was not me that should have been assessed as main care giver it was my partner as this was told and notes made to this affect but it is was how the assessment was written which caused suspicion and dishonest view and still has the same view to this day why does noone listen and why is noone willing or able to help and why are goverment bodies being allowed to ignore peoples cries for help and the people responcible for this conspiracy and suspicions left to get away with it justice should be served properly and fairly whom ever is involved we as a family have been left to support ourselves and can easily be exploited by this as we do not properly know and understand laws and blame is not just on goverment bodies it is also on the limited funding for vunerable people in proceedings such as ours and that they left unrepresented we had noone protecting or supporting our family rights not even the family court which is possibly why a retrial has been done or about to be wasting more money i do not see the sence in this and feel that because of this people are angry with us but we not to blame the local authority had have brought a honest open and fair hearings in the firat place it would not be nessassery to have a retrial to prevent mistakes been publically known
Anonymous - 14-Jul-18 @ 6:05 AM
is anyone helping us as a family if so why cant they come forward and explain to us why we being investigated it is sounding strange by things im explaining what has and still being happening and advise ive being given to write the old fashioned way and when i have im feeling like im making people angry with me as they reply by email i mean no harm all im trying to do is support my family and trying to get them the right help but as a result im feeling alone without any support and being made out to be dishonest please come forward and advise me
Anonymous - 14-Jul-18 @ 5:11 AM
Appealed dwp refusal for new award for pip 2015/2016 was appeared to have been won. I wrote to dwp asking for new assessment for pip during 2015 as i was at this time claiming dla high mobility and low care once my new claim was assessed and i was refered to capita walsall assessment centre for face to face assessment during 2016 i wasnt given any points and went to citizens to do mandatory the decision refusing to change there decision to except me for pip i went back to citizens whom refered me to welfare rights whom did nothing apart from do a statement for appeal to tribunal she did not speak or advise me on anything i had assessment and report from adult social worker which was fabricated in parts during 2016 my appeal at tribunal was postponed for medical reports to be sent to tribunal which they paid for and requested them from my gp surgery my second and appeal date to hear my appeal i explained how ill my daughter in law was as she had previously given birth which caused her health issues and i also explained that my partner and me as support was assessed as potential carer and support giver for our grandson if it was that neither parents could look after there son i also explained what i have to do as at the time my partner worked nights and i was doing short walks with my dog while my partner was sleeping and some times doing bits in my garden which during 2016 my next door neighbour and her daughter was recording me and our conversations which once it came out as i reported them both my neighbour esculated this with other neighbours and people passing by and her boyfriend and his family began recording me standing by there back gates with there phones listening to our family conversations which were private i thought that i won my tribunal and was awarded pip but recently discovered it was set up to look that way as we had been going through family court and complaining through council complaints procedure which closed as we got to ombusman no solicitiors i have contacted say they cant help me im passed from one to another and also law society and civil legal advice s I mething fishy going on an noone ive spoke to appears to know or are unwilling to say although i am having to go through this all again as i discovered i have never been on pip and told it is a new claim i sent in earlier this year all this has caused me to appear dishonest and i aint had a clue what was going on i discovered this recording dwp about my new pip claim and tomlin order and also i found that dwp has caused which hunt in usa against benfit claimants and on birmingham law centre and looking through my pip records from tribunal in 2016 i went to citizens and asked about why i have detention in legal custody on my tribunal records during 2016 but told by an agent at citizens that she disn5 know about it yet i discovered she was/had worked in walsall service centre and was in wolverhampton cab to investigate me and others on benefits as i have seen many pe
Hello - 7-Jul-18 @ 11:05 PM
To ensure this issue reaches the widest audience please send the following message via email.......facebook.........twitter............and any other media to everybody you know............ask them to forward the message to james.brokenshire.mp@parliament.uk the more he gets the more he is likely to listen............. MESSAGE: search the internet for " can we trust the Local Government Ombudsman" enter the page and scroll down to comments.
Please help - 29-Jun-18 @ 12:09 PM
Can I suggest as many people as possible "tweet" about this subject
Please help - 27-Jun-18 @ 5:17 PM
Hi jo Reading your coment i have had problems with council complaints procedure and case closed once it got to lgo seems to me it is a common problem and those involved should be exposed legally but i wonder if it will ever happen and the worry and fear of exposing anyone what could happen doing so.
Want to chat with me - 27-Jun-18 @ 2:53 AM
In an official Council report I found a number of discrepancies one of which related to inaccurate measurements. After complaining I secured a meeting with the Council's Monitoring Officer. At that meeting I offered a compromise, if they re-measured and I was wrong I would not pursue the matter. Their response " if we re-measure and you are right it might cost the Council a lot on money" it never happened. COMPARE: The same Monitoring Officer was involved in taking a former employee to Court for £5M knowing that he was not in a position to pay, the Council wasted £3.5M which was never recouped. The Judge stated " I am glad I am not a Council Tax payer in this Borough, this case should never have come to Court" COUNCIL COMMITMENT honesty, openness and accountability COUNCIL CONSTITUTION effective and efficient use of resources?
Help - 20-Jun-18 @ 12:54 PM
My Council commissioned a £10,000 report into comments about the integrity of a number of high ranking employees although the report agreed the comments were justified the independent investigators remit was limited to 2 individuals who's integrity was not questioned. One Council employee refused to be interviewed and the investigator told that the main witness a civilian was unable to be interviewed which was a complete fabrication. Once complete I made a FOI request for a copy at first I was told I could have a copy and this was later confirmed on another 2 occasions, 16 weeks later I sent a reminder and was told the report was confidential. I subsequently wrote to the Information Commissioner who instructed the Council to provide a copy in his comment he stated that " he wished to record his concern about the general quality of the Council's responses and would be very concerned to see another case involving the public authority where the quality of its responses is so poor" ...................................The LGO were aware.
Help - 19-Jun-18 @ 11:27 AM
I made a very serious allegation against the Borough Solicitor which lead to 4 meetings over 18 months with the Chief Executive who produced a draft report 6 months before our final meeting. At our final meeting we agreed on 4 out of the 5 issues to resolve the matter but were unable to agree on the 5th. I subsequently requested that she complete the investigation into the Borough Solicitor taking into consideration my comments about the draft report. Her response was to ignore my request and merely stated there was no case to answer and there was no appeal. When I later made of Freedom of Information Request for a copy of the final report she was unable to produce one......................... The LGO is aware
Help - 18-Jun-18 @ 11:18 AM
I supported an ethnic minority football club with 10 teams aged 7-16 in their efforts to secure changing facilities. I provided the presentation script and the boys and girls presented it, on the afternoon of the presentation I received a copy of the Council's briefing note for the Cabinet Member. The content was a character assassination of the club so we quickly changed the script to provide responses and evidence to discredit the Council's briefing note. The Cabinet Member was furious and instructed officers to find £80,000 for temporary changing facilities. Prior to this the Community Council had awarded the club £60,000 from a project that was no longer viable but the club never got it because the Council forgot? to minute it for the record and it was allocated elsewhere. I will comment later about the rigged feasibility study for permanent changing facilities......... The LGO are aware.
Help - 17-Jun-18 @ 11:26 AM
Whenever I made a request to my Council to ask a question or present a deputation at Council Assembly all my requests were rejected on the grounds..........."It is a request from an individual who has alternative means of expressing their views through recognised channels, e.g. employee of the authority or trade unions representing staff employed by the authority."...................................The original rule also contained the following "the right to ask a question or present a deputation only applies to persons resident in the borough" but it was removed..................... As a resident who was not employed by the borough rejecting my requests appears to be an attempt to deliberately and cynically manipulate the rules and in the words of the Judge misleading and evasive..............The LGO were aware but chose not to initiate an investigation despite this and all the evidence below?.
Help - 15-Jun-18 @ 2:51 PM
Every Council has a "Petition Scheme" for holding the Council to account at various levels for me I chose the Chief Executive. I needed 500 signatures from local residents but when I asked for help with the wording of the petition my Council were not at all helpful insisting I submit the petition with the 500 signatures before they approve. No surprise, the wording was not to their satisfaction. I then contacted 4 other Councils with the same petition wording and asked for help, all 4 come back with their suggestion to make the petition acceptable..........All of comments posted by me so far were part of my complaint to the LGO about my Council. Let's not forget Mr Paul Conroy LGO Director of Assessments stated in a letter "The Ombudsman has the statutory authority to exercise his discretion to decide when and whether to initiate, discontinue or complete an investigation"
Help - 14-Jun-18 @ 12:18 PM
A set of coins presented to the Mayor were confiscated by a Council employee because they said they were valued at £20,000 and produced an invoice in support. When in front of the whole Council I produced a copy of the invoice and suggested it was fraudulent the coins were returned to the Mayor. No investiagtion took place. Later "Spinks" of London valued them at around £5........ The LGO are aware.
Help - 12-Jun-18 @ 11:55 AM
My story continues............ High Court Judge " The affidavit as drafted created a seriously misleading impression"...............he then went on to suggest the defendant might wish to consider taking the Council's "Monitoring Officer" to a claims court for damages...............At the time the Council's constitution made the individual officer personally liable for any compensation...........................at the next opportunity the Constitution was amended to make the Council Tax payer responsible.......When I made a FOI request for a copy of original constitution amendment, to see who had submitted it, the Council informed the ICO they did not have a copy despite the Constitution indicating they should. The ICO said " it is not helpful to promote such sentiments if the Council are not prepared to back them up".The LGO are aware................................... MORE EXAMPLES SOON.
Help - 11-Jun-18 @ 11:01 AM
I can certainly concur with the comments below about the LGO but who will investigate to find the truth I have tried every official avenue and they are all dead ends. What is it that stops the media looking into the failures of the LGO and publicising the public's concerns?. I will begin my story with documented criticism of my Local Council from : A High Court Judge "I have found some witnesses evasive, some untruthful in their evidence and some both of these things" "negligent management permeates this case" " I am unable to accept the witness statement it does not square with the documents" Information Commisioner "The commissioner would be very concerned to see another case where the quality of its response is so poor" " The commissionerconsiders this a contradiction of the Council's own guidance on how it will conduct these procedures" Independent Investigator "Thus in summary my finding are that the complaints process itself was weak and remains so" "This doubtless created an impression of a Council in some disarray" All of which the LGO are fully aware of, not only did they fail to take action on my complaint they ignored at least 10 requests for a personal interview despite the fact I was willing to travel to them and I even offered to pay for the officers time. Over the coming weeks I will provide examples of some serious maladministration including. Fraudulent documents Amending the Constitution for personal advantage Bullying Falsifying statistics Manipulating Council procedure and policies to prevent being exposed Wasting Millions of pounds Misleading affidavit Misleading a High Court Judge £20,000 on a rigged reports The list goes on. Yet again the LGO were fully aware of all this and still no real investigation. In a letter from the LGO its states "The Ombudsman has the statutory authority to exercise his discretion to decide when and whether to initiate, discontinue or complete an investigation" What will it take to get the LGO to listen and take action. Foot note: I submitted my complaint to the LGO after 5 months my case was passed to a second LGO assessor due to the long term illness of the first within 2 weeks I was sent the interim decision letter which was not in my favour. I responded by requesting an extension of the time limit to respond which the LGO procedures allow. Within the week my submission was rejected without any reference to my extension request despite it being the first line of my response, when I complained the LGO supported the assessor.
Help - 7-Jun-18 @ 8:16 PM
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