LGiU inquiry highlights strong support for the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) but calls on the Ombudsman to provide a distinct offer to elected members.
LGiU have published a new report which looks at the role of the Ombudsman and how it might best use the information it holds to enhance local accountability.
Following a survey of over 400 senior local government officers and elected members, the report, ‘The LGO and the Future of Local Accountability’, finds that there is broad support across local government for the work of the Ombudsman but calls on the LGO to provide a distinct offer to councillors.
Elected members revealed a clear appetite for more direct support from the Ombudsman. 73 per cent of councillors stated that they would like more support and 64 per cent of councillors felt that the LGO could help the work of overview and scrutiny committees.
Other key findings included:
- There was significant support for the LGO among local government respondents:
- 91 per cent felt that local government benefits from having its own ombudsman.
- 92 per cent stated that the public benefits from having the Local Government Ombudsman.
- The consultation highlighted strong demand for an increased information offer from the LGO
- 70 per cent of respondents said they would find more focus reports helpful, and planning was highlighted as a key topic of interest.
- 77 per cent would like to see the LGO offer better access to the detailed data it holds on a wide range of complaints across local government.
- Less than a quarter of respondents felt that the Department for Communities and Local Government should continue to be the sole sponsor department for LGO.
Dr Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, commented:
‘Our report clearly shows that the work of the Ombudsman is valued across the sector. The key is for the Ombudsman to release the true value of its role with many elected councilors calling for more direct support and provision of data on their own local authorities. We hope that the findings of the report will be helpful to the LGO in developing its offer going forward.’
Heather Wheeler MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group, added:
“Residents, Councillors and Officers need to know that the Local Government Ombudsman acts fairly, promptly and efficiently. Following this inquiry, with its clear outcomes, my instinct is that the LGO officers will rise to the challenge and embrace these findings as the way they want to work in the future.”
Responding to the research, Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, stated:
“We welcome the clear and strong support for the work of the Local Government Ombudsman and the recognition that we have a positive influence on the provision of local public services.
We appreciate that local authorities are accountable to the public and LGO has a role to play in supporting this. Elected members play the primary role in ensuring local accountability and we are pleased that there is considerable appetite amongst councillors for us to share information about complaints with them.”
Over the coming months LGO will be using the results of this research to inform engagement with local government and will
- Provide more data on complaints performance by local authorities through the publication of all decisions made by LGO on complaints and by further developing the annual letters to councils to provide the information they need to improve performance;
- Work with the LGiU and the LGA to provide a distinct offer to councillors by sharing information which supports them in their scrutiny of local authorities;
- Deliver a programme of Focus Reports to highlight common areas of complaint and provide recommendations for how all councils can improve their services by learning from those complaints.
Notes for Editors
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The full report is available here.
The LGiU is an award winning think tank and membership organisation. Our mission is to strengthen local democracy to put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services. Our team of policy experts and other staff provides practical policy advice, learning and development programmes, events and conferences, consultancy and other resources to our members and other organisations.
About the LGO
The Local Government Ombudsman helps to make sure that local public services are accountable to the people that use them by ensuring that local authorities put things right when they go wrong. This could be where the local authority has failed to provide the level of service that the public can rightly expect to receive. Similarly, it could be where the council has not acted properly in carrying out their functions (which is referred to as ‘maladministration’).
LGO is also the social care ombudsman, providing a one-stop-shop for complaints about the service provided by all registered social care providers. Its powers to investigate extend to complaints about both publically and privately funded social care. The current Ombudsman is Dr Jane Martin.