Ombudsman ‘disappointed’ with Rossendale council’s response to report

A northern council has been heavily criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after officers misrepresented an earlier investigation report to councillors.

The Ombudsman issued a report about the way Rossendale Borough Council dealt with a woman’s hackney carriage licence in June 2017.  That report found the council took too long to process the woman’s application.

As part of the council’s legal obligations, officers presented the report to the council’s Cabinet. After councillors were given misleading information, the  Cabinet decided not to accept the Ombudsman’s finding of fault. The only way a council can do this is by Judicial Review in the court. However, the council has neither applied to Judicially Review the decision, nor to accept the Ombudsman’s findings. It cannot do this.

The Ombudsman has now issued a further report on the council asking it to reconsider its options.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“I am particularly disappointed with the way Rossendale council has dealt with my earlier report, and the inaccurate advice it has given to members, both about the decision itself and the legal options open to members if they chose to dispute it.

“The council has justified the delay being due to the need for proper scrutiny and to ensure the safety of residents. We have never suggested public safety should be undermined or compromised. But this can and should go hand in hand with good administrative practice.

“I am also concerned many of the points the council is now relying on to challenge the decision were not raised during the original investigation, despite it having multiple opportunities throughout the process to do so.

“Rossendale council has failed to provide evidence it has considered the report properly, complied with the recommendations or indicate what steps it intends to take. It now needs to consider the original report properly and comply with the recommendations, and provide the remedy to the woman and other people who may have been similarly affected by the council’s actions.”

Article date: 21 March 2018