I was delighted to see that there is clear and strong support for the work of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) and recognition that we have a positive influence on the provision of local public services (92% felt the public benefit from having LGO). Similarly there is strong support, especially amongst councillors, for us to do more to support local accountability (73% of councillors wanted more support from us).
Of course, local accountability means public services being accountable to the public that use them. LGO having a clearer role in this process does not mean that we act like a regulator or seek greater powers for ourselves. Instead, our focus will be on sharing learning and information from complaints more effectively with both officers and, increasingly, with councillors.
It is elected members that have a democratic mandate to hold local authorities to account on behalf of the public for systemic failings in service delivery. We need to ensure that councillors have better access to information from complaints and can use the outcomes of our work as a resource to support and inform their scrutiny role.
Many of the issues that we see will be familiar to elected members, echoing what they read in their post bags or hear in their surgeries. However, LGO has nearly 40 years of experience of identifying and recommending practical and sometimes creative ways to remedy individual injustice. Drawing upon this experience could help councillors to ensure that local solutions are provided to problems local people experience with their public services.
Over the coming months we will be using the results of this research to inform engagement with local government and will:
- provide more data on complaints performance by publishing all our decisions and by developing the annual letters to councils;
- work with the LGiU and the LGA to provide a distinct information offer to councillors;
- deliver a programme of Focus Reports to highlight common complaints and provide recommendations for how all councils can improve their services by learning from those complaints.
If you want to keep up to date with these and other developments at LGO, you can now follow us on Twitter @LGOmbudsman or on our LinkedIn page.
To read the LGiU’s full report, please follow this link.