Agenda item

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman: Annual Report 2020 - 2021

Report number: PAS/WS/21/014


[Councillor Robert Nobbs joined the meeting at 5.05pm. 

Councillors John Augustine and Elaine McManus joined the meeting at 5.15pm.

Councillor Peter Thompson joined the meeting at 5.20pm].


The Committee received report number PAS/WS/21/014, which set out the context; number of complaints received, and the outcome of complaints considered by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). 


The LGO issues an annual report each year on its activity, which maps the volume and nature of complaints it had received across the country.  This was available on the LGO’s website.  Each council was also issued with its own performance report.  This report informed the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee on the outcome of complaints considered by the LGSCO about West Suffolk Council for the period 2020 to 2021.


Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was the LGSCO annual review letter 2021 and at Appendix 2 the complaint statistics for West Suffolk Council. 


Of the 16 Stage 2 complaints considered by West Suffolk Council in 2021-2022, 10 were reported to the LGSCO.  In total the LGSCO considered 12 complaints, which included 2 received in 2019-2020 but not decided on until 2020-2021. 


Of the 12 complaints considered by the LGSCO only one was upheld, which related to the Council’s handing of a parking appeal.  The outcome was the LGSCO found the Council to be at fault because it had not considered the appeal against the parking charge properly but found that this had not caused the complainant any injustice. 


The Committee was informed that upheld complaints and any other recommendations made by the LGSCO were always reviewed to determine whether a service change was required and the LGSCO’s annual review would form part of the forthcoming wider work about how complaints were handled by local authorities due to concerns about the status of complaints within local authorities in terms of visibility, capacity, and status.  The Council would be participating and engaging in the review process and would provide updates in due course. 


The Committee was reassured that the Council’s central recording and overview of complaints through Customer Services put the Council in a good place in understanding the corporate perspective on how complaints were managed across the various services provided by the Council.  Once the LGSCO review was completed the Council would look at their recommendations to see whether any improvements could be made to the current complaints process.


The Committee considered the report in detail and asked a number of questions, to which comprehensive responses were provided. 


In response to a question raised on how easy it was for a complainant to register a complaint, officers explained that the full complaints process was available on the Council’s website.  Complaints could also be logged with the relevant service.  Once received information was passed to Customer Services to record centrally.  The Council then carried out an investigation and the complainant was regularly updated through each stage of the complaints process.


In response to a question raised around seeking more reassurance that the complaints process was working correctly, officers explained that the report from the LGSCO only focused on matters referred to them and outcomes from their processes.  The LGSCO report did not provide an overview of the Council’s whole approach to complaint management, which was facilitated and overseen by Customer Services.  In terms of seeking assurance around how complaints were managed, members would need to look at the trends.  The number of complaints referred at Stage 2 to the LGSCO had remained fairly consistent over the years, indicating the Council was in a stable position around what was referred to the LGSCO.  The volume of Stage 2 investigations shows the Council was able to resolve the majority of complaints at the first point of contact, and the Council provided quick reassurances to complainants who were not happy with services they had received, with services working to address and overcome issues. 


In response to a question raised regarding the number of complaints received, officers explained that an overview of complaints received was provided on a quarterly basis to the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee through the balanced scorecard.  The attached appendices to report number PAS/WS/21/014 set out complaints by service, which had been referred to the LGSCO. 


In response to a question raised by Councillor Nick Clarke, suggesting the Committee might wish to review the complaints process, officers advised that the Committee needed to bear in mind the LGSCO review from a national perspective first as the outcome from the review might provide some areas of improvements once concluded.  The Chair of the Committee further advised that a review of the complaints process could be reviewed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.


In response to a question raised regarding how complaints relating to the Anglia Revenues Partnership (ARP) and Abbey Croft Leisure were dealt with, officers advised that ARP complaints were handled by the Council and Abbey Croft Leisure had their own process in place for dealing with complaints.


There being decision required, the Committee noted the annual report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman 2020-2021.



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