This report provides the annual review of complaints received and decisions made by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman during 2022-2023.
The Committee received a report providing the annual review of complaints received and decisions made by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman during 2022-2023.
The following matters were considered:
a) Ombudsman Complaints. A Member of the Committee agreed with the decision to move the responsibility of dealing with Ombudsman complaints from the Customer Service Team to the Business Support Team. The Member asked about the issues experienced by the Ombudsman regarding problems communicating with the Customer Service Team and if there is still an ongoing issue with the Customer Service Team and failing to follow up with complaints. The Interim Director of Corporate Services responded to state that the Customer Service Team deals with a large volume of Stage 1, or minor, complaints, of which a small percentage of complaints get escalated to Stage 2, and an even smaller amount get escalated further to the Ombudsman. The Interim Director of Corporate Services informed the Committee that the Customer Service team is fast-paced and busy dealing with many customers and chasing for and providing responses within 15 days. Due to only a very small number of complaints going to the Ombudsman, some have historically gotten lost or missed amongst the higher number of Stage 1 and 2 complaints. The Interim Director of Corporate Services explained that the responsibility now lies with the Business Support Team where there are people who can give exclusive focus to complaints that go to the Ombudsman.
b) 2021/22 LGO Review Letter. A Member of the Committee asked the Chair why the 2021/22 LGO Review Letter was not taken to the November 2022 or February 2023 Audit and Scrutiny Meetings once the letter was received by the Chief Executive and the Chair, but instead was taken to the April 2023 Audit and Scrutiny Meeting. A second Member of the Committee also asked why there was such a long delay in bringing the report to a meeting of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee. The Chair responded to reassure the Committee and residents that nothing was being hidden and accepts that it should have been dealt with in a timelier fashion. The Chair went on to explain thatas stated in the Committee workplans prior to April 2023, the information and content of the letter was in the public domain and could be found on the LGO website andvia the link provided in the Workplan reports prior to April 2023, where from that point the LGO Review Letter was brought to the Committee as a separate standalone report.
c) Service review. A Member of the Committee asked why there was a six-month delay in initiating a Service review, once the 2021/22 LGO Review Letter was received. A Service Review was initiated on February 1, 2023. A further question was raised by the Member querying why the A&S Committee were not involved in supervisingand scrutinising the decision to initiate and carry out a service review. The Chair informed the Committee that there was not enough time for this information to go through the report cycleprior to the February meeting of A&S. The Chair shared that if he hasn’t had a reply or response from the Chief Exec, then nothing can be done until that is received first, following that matters need to be communicated and actioned within the service department, therefore, unfortunately, things don't happen overnight. The Chair expressed disappointment that it took a long time to bring to the attention of the Committee but confirmed to the Committee that everything has since been sorted.
d) Committee Workplan. A Member of the Committee askedwhy the LGO Review Letter wasn’t included in the workplans for April 2023, which is when it was presented to the Committee, and why a member of the public has been told it was included.The Member also asked why the workplans state ‘When the Council receives its annual letter from the Local Government and Social Care ombudsman, we will note here whether any recommendations have been put to the Council by the ombudsman,’however, no recommendations were noted in the workplans between June 2022 and February 2023, until it was taken to the Committee in April 2023 as a standalone report.The Interim Director of Corporate Services responded to inform the Committee that it is shown in the workplan taken to the April 2023 meeting,as was the standalone Ombudsman report. The Interim Director of Corporate Services clarified that prior to the April 2023 Meeting,the recommendations of the Ombudsman have been within the Committee workplan, as a subset of that report and confirmed thatit wasn't a standalone report, so would not have been listed on the table within the workplan detailing upcoming reports until it was brought to the Committee on the 6th of April 2023. The Interim Director of Corporate Services confirmed that a link to the Councils’ performance data page of the LGO website was included in the workplan reports running from April 2022 - February 2023.
Following consideration, the Committee unanimously resolved to:
(1) Receive and note the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Annual Review Letter 2022-2023.