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Information for Link Officers

Public reports

If we decide that we should issue a public report (LGA 74 s30(1)) on a complaint, we will write to you in advance to let you know, including the reason(s) why we are issuing it. You will have an opportunity to comment on a draft of the report before it is finalised. We will also send you a fact sheet that explains the report process and what your responsibilities are.

What is the difference between a public report and a decision?

All our investigation decisions are published on our website, except where we decide publishing is not in the interests of the people involved in the complaint. In a small number of investigations we will publish a detailed report of the investigation. These require the organisation involved to make a public announcement and we will promote the report in the media. Reports and decisions do not name the people involved but do name the organisation(s) investigated.

Why do we issue public interest reports?

There are many reasons why we might issue a public report. The main reason is because we believe it is in the public interest to highlight particular issues or problems. We might also issue a public report because what went wrong is significant or because the impact on the person complaining is significant. We will always issue a public interest report if an organisation does not agree with our findings or recommendations, or put things right to our satisfaction.

We have six criteria to consider when deciding whether to issue a public report. These are:

  1. Recurrent faults
  2. Significant fault, injustice or remedy (by scale or the number of people affected)
  3. Non-compliance with an Ombudsman’s recommendation
  4. A high volume of complaints about one subject
  5. A significant topical issue
  6. Systemic problems and/or wider issues

Issuing public interest reports is one way that we help to ensure councils, and other organisations providing public services, remain accountable to people who use those services. And by highlighting the learning from complaints we help to improve services for others.

What happens when we decide to issue a public interest report?

We will write to the authority to say we intend to issue a public report and to provide our reasons why, with reference to the criteria above.

Before the report is issued, all parties involved in the complaint have the opportunity to see a draft version of the report and comment on it. This includes any third parties who we may have asked for evidence from during the investigation. We expect the report notification and draft report to be shared with the Chief Executive and senior managers. The authority’s response to a draft report should come from someone senior who has the authority to agree to or reject our findings and recommendations. We expect the authority to make it clear in its response whether it is accepting or rejecting our findings and recommendations and to clearly set out its reasons for doing so.

Once we have received all the comments and we have finalised the report, we send it to the complainant and the authority at the same time. We anonymise reports so they do not include the names of the complainant, any authority officers or anyone else involved in the events. However, there may be exceptional circumstances where we decide not to do so if it is appropriate. We use job titles to refer to senior council officers.

Our findings in the report are binding. If an authority wishes to challenge our findings on whether there has been fault and the injustice or loss suffered, it must do so through judicial review. There is no other way of challenging our findings.

The authority then must take action: it has three months from the date of the report to formally consider the report and any recommendations we have made. This means the report should considered at a high decision making level such as full Council, Cabinet or another Committee with delegated authority. The authority should send a formal written response to us explaining what steps it has taken or will take to comply with the recommendations in the report.

When we are satisfied with the action(s) an authority has taken following a report, we will send a letter of satisfaction to the authority and write to the complainant explaining this. We then update the entry on our website to show we are satisfied with the outcome of the report.

How is the report published?

Reports are published on our website. We will advise authorities of the earliest date the report will be published. This will be at least six working days after we sent the complainant and the authority the final report. See our News page for recent reports.

We will usually send a copy of the report with a press release to the media. We often send out the press release in advance of the publishing date under an embargo. This means the media would have sight of the report and may contact the authority or complainant (if the complainant agrees for the press to contact them) before the publishing date, but are expected to withhold writing or broadcasting anything until after we have published the report. We do not consult on the content of our press releases but can send authorities and complainants a copy on request at the time it is issued to the media.

In addition the authority must place two public notice announcements in local newspapers/ newspaper websites within two weeks of receiving the report. The authority should also make copies of the report available free of charge at one or more of its offices.

What happens if an authority does not comply with the recommendations?

Most authorities agree to our recommendations, often before we issue a report. However, if an authority does not, we can issue a further report. A further report will explain that an authority has not complied with our recommendations.

The authority can also add its comments to the further report explaining why it decided not to comply. The Local Government Act 1974 says these comments must come from someone without any interest in the report. The same rules about the press and publishing public notices apply and the authority has three months to formally respond to the further report.

In those rare cases where an authority fails to respond within the prescribed time or refuses to comply with recommendations in a further report we will ask the authority to issue a statement of non-compliance. If they do not agree to do so we can publish it on their behalf. This statement explains why we are not satisfied with how an authority has responded to a report or that it has refused to comply with our recommendation(s). The authority can add a statement to it explaining why it has not complied, and the same rules apply about the press.