National Ombudsmen
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LGO responds to Select Committee report

The LGO welcomed yesterday’s (17 July) report from the Communities and Local Government Committee, which pays tribute to the work of our staff during a particularly demanding period and welcomes plans to publish our decisions in the interests of openness.

We also agree that some changes need to be made to the organisation, in order to ensure that we continue to modernise and provide a high quality service, whilst our budget is reduced by a third over the next few years. This is why we have been consulting on a comprehensive programme of change over the last 12 months, which can be fully implemented once the government provide the necessary authorisations. Our proposals have been discussed extensively with staff, government officials and others, and are available on the LGO website, along with the independent review which informed them.

Jane Martin, Ombudsman and Chair, comments: “Our annual report published last week shows that LGO made 11,229 complaint decisions in 2011/12, an increase on previous years and a trend that we expect to continue. In more than a quarter of these cases, we identified significant injustice and obtained redress for the complainants concerned, many of whom were vulnerable individuals whose voices would have otherwise gone unheard. We are acutely aware that this is an essential frontline service and welcome the scrutiny of the Committee to make sure that we are delivering it as efficiently as possible without compromising on quality. We will be responding in detail to the Committee’s report over the coming weeks and hope it will be evident, when we have had the opportunity publish our response, that many of the recommendations have already been taken on board.”

LGO publishes its performance against time standards for handling complaints and these compare well with other Ombudsman schemes: last year we decided more than 55% of cases within 13 weeks; and 85% within 26 weeks. However, in rare situations, the complaint cannot be resolved within 52 weeks – usually due to the complexity of the issues involved or the need to accommodate other organisations’ processes. This is currently only around 0.5% of our cases and we are actively reviewing every individual case which falls into this category in order to check that we have done everything possible to achieve a satisfactory outcome. We will continue to publish our performance against time targets.

LGO has long been committed to using an independent research body to assess customer satisfaction, as an important part of our public accountability. This provides us with independent feedback on how our customers experience our service, their views on different aspects of what we do and overall satisfaction. We certainly agree with the Committee that this should continue, and we will reflect on how this work, along with the evaluation of our own service and capturing the views of our staff, can best be developed in future.

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