Ombudsman publishes local authority complaint statistics in new report

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has published its review of local government complaints for 2013/14.

For the first time the report provides complaint statistics for each English local authority, all in one place. The LGO provides this information to councils each year in a set of annual letters.

The report includes case studies that give an insight into how the LGO helps individuals who have experienced problems, and shows the type of changes and improvements that can be brought about as a result of LGO’s investigations.

This year, out of a total of 20,306 complaints, the LGO registered 18,436 new complaints and enquiries specifically about local authorities. In comparison to the previous year:

  • complaints about benefits and tax increased by 26%
  • complaints about local authority adult social care increased by 16%

The two areas where the LGO was more likely to uphold complaints in detailed investigations were also in benefits and tax (49%), and adult social care (48%).

Housing complaints to the LGO also decreased by 39%, although this was an expected result of all new complaints about councils’ role as social landlords becoming the responsibility of the Housing Ombudsman Service in April 2013.

The report also draws on customer research that LGO has carried out that poses some questions about the pressures placed on the local government complaints system as a whole.

Some of the key findings from the research were:

  • more than half (55%) of people found it easy to find information about how to make a complaint about their authority
  • 56% of people did not recall being made aware of the local authority’s complaint handling procedures
  • 43% of people were not advised that they could refer their complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“We are releasing this data so that the public has a better understanding of the role of the Ombudsman and the work we do. We also hope the information will support better local accountability by helping people make informed choices about local public services; helping councils reflect on their complaint handling; and supporting local scrutiny.

“It is important that the public has a clear route to redress when things go wrong. We want to work with councils to support excellent local complaint handling so that things are put right as quickly as possible. Our research highlights areas where improvements could be made to ensure the complainant’s journey runs as smoothly as possible.”

The Review of Local Government Complaints 2013/14 supplements the LGO Annual Report and Accounts (to be published on 16 July), which gives more information specifically about the LGO’s performance. The Review also follows the first annual review of social care complaints published in May, which released complaint statistics for private care providers as well as local authorities for the first time.

Article date: 15 July 2014

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