Sunday, 20 October 2013

Hypothetical Oversight

The policy formulation and consultation of the library policy was a sham at Oxfordshire County Council. I know this, at least two Councillors have publicly admitted this, the prime minister admits to intervening yet the organisation despite many complaints from me and many others won't acknowledge this fact, you can read the details in my last post here. This is the same council that refused to listen to young girls in their care who were being used in the sex trade. My view is the the council and possibly the police turned a criminal blind eye to what was going on. Nobody has resigned over the horrendous things going on, I suspect there won't be any criminal prosecutions either because the local police have also been involved in those failings. This is obviously the worst example of the failure of the organisation and its culture. There have been many failings by OCC since I moved down to Oxfordshire in 2005, most of them costly to the taxpayer. The problem is, when you and others know the council has got it wrong what do you do? If its obviously a criminal thing you can go to the police (doesn't always help anyway), but if its not obviously criminal then what? You take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. They exist to:

 "Our mission is to provide an independent means of redress to individuals for injustice caused by unfair treatment or service failure by local authorities, schools and care providers and use our learning to promote good public administration and service improvement."

Which sounds great, the problem as ever lies in the details. I made a complaint about the dodgy consultation, MP dictating policy and even councillors publicly admitting it was all a sham. I naively and honestly expected them to do something about it, unfortunately they refuse to act.They have been setup in such a way as to make them as useless as a marzipan hammer.

They have lots of rules that dictate if they can get involved or not. The one they used for my complaint to justify their inaction was:

"The Ombudsman will not start an investigation of Mr B’s (they keep the complaints anonymous)  complaint because he has not shown that he has suffered significant personal injustice as a result of what has happened."

So I could uncover lots of dodgy goings on (in fact I have) and because it doesn't represent a significant personal injustice they refuse to act! I obviously escalated this and got the response:

The Ombudsman has limited resources. Each year she (its just one person??) receives more complaints than she can investigate. She has therefore established a set of principles against which we assess complaints to see whether they should be investigated. This Assessment Code can be found in full on our website, but in summary we consider:
a) whether a complaint is within jurisdiction;
b) whether there is an alternative remedy available; 
c) whether there is a significant claimed injustice; 
d) whether there is any sign of fault by the Council ; and 
e) whether there is something the Ombudsman can achieve for the complainant through 
My task when reviewing your complaint is to see whether Ms XXX has properly assessed your 
complaint against these principles

Your complaint
You complained that there was fault in the way the Council reached a policy decision that local
community volunteers should work with it to maintain library services. He says 21 libraries will be 
My views
I have carefully reviewed the documentation Ms XXX used to assess this complaint, and her 
Decision Statement.In your request for review, you have said that you feel your MP and the Leader of the Council have made a decision without following proper democratic process. However, the Ombudsman’s role is not to consider allegations of this nature: her role is to look at actions and decisions of the Council that have unjustly affected an individual, who wants to complain about it. This is why Ms XXX decision is that we cannot consider your complaint as you have not suffered an individual injustice from the Council’s decision.
Ms XXX has concluded that we will not investigate your complaint Your disappointment is 
understandable, but having considered the information, I agree with her decision. I am sorry I 
could not be of more help on this occasion.

This concludes my review of Ms XXX"

So basically they have limited resources and they have plenty ways of getting out of doing anything, individuals who believe their council has acted un-democratically or improperly have no chance of getting past the criteria set down which the LGO use.

The politicians in parties are able to act behind doors however they see fit, regardless of if they were voted in to act on our behalf within that body, the council puts a veneer of pretend democracy on the decision making by ticking the right boxes at the right time but really the whole thing isn't democracy at all. Its a sham. Local government needs reform, the system has no checks and balances and the decisions are made in the wrong way and don't give the public a fair say. OCC will keep getting it wrong, expensive mistakes will be made, lives ruined and nobody, neither politician or public servant will be held to account.

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