November 19, 2009
If you have suffered (financially, or in terms of time or inconvenience) because of maladministration by a local authority you can make a complaint.
Who can you complain to?
Contact the local government ombudsman – http://www.lgo.org.uk/
For advice on making a complaint, or to make a complaint over the telephone, please call the LGO Advice Team on 0300 061 0614 or 0845 602 1983. The Advice Team are available Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.00pm.
Make your complaint over the phone, or send it to:
The Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Coventry CV4 0EH
Fax: 024 7682 0001
You can make an enquiry by email to firstname.lastname@example.org but please note that they cannot provide general advice about local government services. If you have a complaint, use the complaint form or ring the Advice Team.
Complaints must be made in writing within 12 months of the complainant first having notice of the matter complained about, although the ombudsman may investigate a complaint made out of time “if he [she] considers it reasonable to do so”.
Maladministration can include such things as:
- delay in taking action
- taking incorrect action
- failure to take action
- failure to provide information
- failure to compile and maintain adequate records
- failure to investigate
- failure to deal with letters or other enquiries
- making misleading or inaccurate statements
- lack of corporate action or proper liaison between departments
- failure to consider possible courses of action
The ombudsmen investigate complaints about most council matters, including housing, planning, education, social services, consumer protection, drainage and council tax.
The ombudsmen can only investigate complaints about the way a LA has reached a decision or acted; they cannot question what a LA has done simply because you do not agree with it.
The ombudsmen cannot investigate complaints about:
- something you knew about more than 12 months before you wrote to the ombudsman or to an LA, unless the ombudsman thinks it is reasonable to look into it despite the delay
- something about which you have already appealed to a tribunal or a government minister (for example, a planning appeal), or have taken court action against the council
- something you could appeal about to a tribunal or a government minister or go to court about unless we think there are good reasons why you could not reasonably be expected to do so
- something affecting all or most of the people living in the LA area, such as a complaint about the council wasting public money
- court proceedings, personnel matters, the internal management of schools and colleges, and contracts for the supply of goods and services to the council (although the sale or purchase of land can be investigated)
You must have given the LA a chance to resolve the issue before you take your case to the ombudsman. Contact the department involved, or write to the chief executive.
You will be informed if the ombudsman is able to deal with your case. The ombudsman will first try to settle matters informally, by contacting the LA and asking them to comment. You may be asked to comment on the LA’s reply.
If the problem cannot be resolved informally, the ombudsman will conduct a formal investigation and produce a report. This may take several months.
What will happen if you’re successful?
The ombudsman can recommend that the LA remedy the consequences of their maladministration (repairing housing or providing landscaping for instance). If the chance for remedy has passed, the ombudsman can recommend the LA pay you financial compensation.
The ombudsmen have no powers to force an LA to do anything, although in almost all cases LAs do as the ombudsmen suggests. If a LA does decide not to comply the ombudsman can have a statement about the refusal published in a local paper.
Anything else you can do?
The ombudsman’s decision is final, and there is no appeal facility. He/she also has complete discretion to decide whether to investigate a particular case or not.
An investigation may only be reopened if new material evidence comes to light.
If you disagree with the ombudsman’s decision, or if the LA refuses to comply with the ombudsman’s recommendations, you may still be able to take the LA to court for compensation. If you are considering legal action, you should get advice.