Agenda item

Annual Review Letter of Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman


[With the Chairman’s agreement, item 5 on the agenda, Annual Review Letter of Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, was considered before item 4, Standards Regime – Monitoring Officers’ Report.]


The Committee considered the report on the Local Government Ombudsman’s Annual Review Letter, which set out the statistics for complaints made against the Council covering the year ending 31st March 2023. It was reported that for that year, the Local Government Ombudsman made a decision on 12 complaints relating to Bromsgrove District Council. One complaint was upheld, where a finding of service failure on the Council’s part was found. The Ombudsman recommended that in this case the Council provide a written apology and a payment of £150 to the complainant. This was done by the Council. It was also recommended that the Council review its practices in recovering overpayments by direct debit, which the Council was in the process of reviewing.


Following the presentation of the report, Members made comments and asked questions of Officers. More detail was requested on the one upheld complaint against the Council. Officers reported that in this case the Council was unable to provide a proof that the Council Tax bill letter had been sent to the complainant hence it could not be said with certainty that complainant was aware of the collection. The submission of this letter was on the Council’s electronic records but there was no recorded proof of the letter being sent. The Council would work with the supplier to ensure that recording of letters sent could be evidenced better.


In response to a question about complaints that were deemed ‘premature’ by the Ombudsman, it was explained that a complaint had to go through the Council’s complaints process, and only when the local resolution process failed, could the Ombudsman investigate the complaint.


Clarification was sought on why in some years there were more complaints decided than had been received, and it was explained that this was because some complaints might be received in one year but only resolved in the following year.


It was requested that future iterations of the local government ombudsman contain detail on the number of outstanding complaints and matters as of the start of the reporting period and that it is stated clearly what the reporting period is. Members also suggested that the complaints should be monitored on a more regular basis by the Committee, and that the Committee should look at the Ombudsman letter sooner after it was received. It was also asked that comparison with neighbouring authorities be provided.


It was responded that reporting on complaints would become more regular as it would form part of the Quarterly Finance and Performance Monitoring Reports that were considered by Cabinet, and which were also scrutinised by the Finance and Budget Working Group (sub-committee of the Overview and Scrutiny Board). It was agreed as an action that the next iteration of the Finance and Performance Monitoring report would include detail the number of outstanding complaints at the start of the Ombudsman reporting period.


It was noted that the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman did not provide direct comparison data to Councils. However, information was available on the Ombudsman’s website that enabled a user to retrieve information about complaints received by local authority name and issue type.


During the discussion, it was noted by some Members that the Council’s complaints procedure was relatively straightforward to follow. There were dedicated email details provided as to where direct complaints to and, the timelines for when the Council had to respond by were clearly communicated.


RESOLVED that the report be noted.

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