Thanks once again to BBC Local Democracy reporter Rachael Burford who spotted a very interesting letter from Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, to Tower Hamlets CEO Will Tuckley castigating the Council for the abysmal manner in which it deals with complaints.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates complaints about all local authorities and social care providers in England and every year it publishes the information it sends to councils to help with transparency and improve local services for residents.
Council threatened with summons three times
Seems that Tower Hamlets was so bad at responding to the Ombudsman’s queries about complaints that three times the Ombudsman had to threaten the council that if it did not come up with the goods they would issues it with a witness summons.
Surprising – for any local authority in the country apart from ours.
“24 July 2019
To: Will Tuckley, Chief Executive, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
From: Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Chair, Commission for Local Administration inEngland
We have noted on numerous occasions this year that there have been problems with the way your Council has handled our enquiries.
Delay has been a significant theme, but there have also been problems with contacts not being responded to, correspondence seemingly going missing,and agreements not being implemented.
For example,in one instance, we made enquiries about a complaint but did not receive a response and chased after a month.
The Council could not find our initial enquiry and committed to a quick response after it had been resent, but it then had to be chased again when the information was not provided.
Eventually,we had to threaten a witness summons before we received all the requested information.
The problems continue throughout the complaint process; we had to chase your Council five times to confirm compliance with a remedy that had been recommended and agreed to.
The remedy was confirmed after four months, rather than the six weeks the Council had agreed to.
In two other cases, we had to threaten a witness summons because of the Council’s delays.
This is an unusual action that should never be necessary.”
Complaints statistics for all London local authorities
For your reading pleasure here are all the London councils ranked.
LGO complaints received 2016-17 (896KB)
|Barking & Dagenham||8||16||4||23||14||20||21||1||2||109|
|Hammersmith & Fulham||10||8||1||7||7||12||17||6||2||70|
|Richmond upon Thames||11||7||7||7||7||3||4||12||1||59|
Surprising thing here is that these statistics show that Tower Hamlets Council is not doing too badly. Reality is that before a resident can make a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman they first have to complain to the council. Only if that procedure is exhausted can they then complain to the Ombudsman.
And as Moley knows only too well that process is designed to sap the will from the most determined resident trying to hold the Council to account and most probably just give up. To make matters worse a complaint to the Ombudsman can only be upheld if the complainant has suffered personally.
So if for example someone should complain about two councillors being allowed by senior council officers to not properly declare their employment details in their official Register of Interests that will not be upheld irrespective of the details of the case.
Open? Transparent? Nuffink like it.