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Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS made this Freedom of Information request to Local Government Ombudsmen

The request was partially successful.

From: Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Sir or Madam,

Between 1989 and 1995 there were about 520 findings of maladministration causing injustice against the Hackney Council Complaints System.

Jerry WHITE (one of the current Local Government Ombudsmen) was responsible as Head of Paid Service of Hackney for the administration of this service.

In about 1996 with the most exemplary record for administering a Council Complaints system in the Country (highest number of findings of maladministration causing injustice) Jerry WHITE was recommended for appointment to the position of Local Government Ombudsman by the Secretary of State and their department (now Communities and Local Government), a position that he accepted from the crown.

How many similar cases to those where the LGO identified maladministration and injustice caused by Hackney (between 1989 and 1995) has Jerry WHITE identified as being maladministration and injustice, and what proportion of the cases submitted to Jerry WHITE are similar to those where the complaints system he was responsible for administering was identified to have failed.

Finally do the Commission for Local Administration England (CLAE) monitor the decisions of Local Government Ombudsmen ['LGO'] against the findings against them whilst former Chief Executives of Local Authorities. To ensure that the discretion as to what maladministration is is not subverted by current incumbents of the position.

There can no doubt that Jerry WHITE on about 520 different occasions did not consider Hackney had committed maladministration causing injustice as a Chief Executive with a responsibility for a Council Complaints System, and that the then LGO had to correct his understanding as to what maladministration causing injustice actually was.

Yours faithfully,

Stuart HARDWICKE CARRUTHERS

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From: Hilary Pook
Local Government Ombudsmen

Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

This is to acknowledge receipt of your email request, received on
Thursday 24 July.

I will respond to this as soon as possible. I will aim to reply within
the 20-working day target (which would be by 21 August). If I am unable
to do so, I will write to you again explaining why.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

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From: Hilary Pook
Local Government Ombudsmen


Attachment CS 08 0028 Hardwicke Carruthers.doc
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Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

Please find attached a letter in reply to the request below.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

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From: Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Hilary Pook,

Many thanks for your reply (your ref: CS/08/0028/HJP), that nearly answers the question. I understand that Mr WHITE is on record as stating that a local settlement is a finding of maladministration causing injustice. The only difference is that the Local Authority agrees to settle without a formal report being issued by the Ombudsman. I believe that you are confused that a formal report identifying maladministration causing injustice is the only measure. The actual measure is MI (maladministration and injustice report) + LS (Local settlement) = total number of findings of maladministration causing injustice.

Could you clarify if my understanding is correct (it is based on the Ombudsman's assurances) and that the actual number of findings of maladministration causing injustice against the complaints system that Jerry WHITE was responsible for administering between 1988 and 1995 was in fact about 520 (and that following the Ombudsman's investigation about 430 were identified as being indefensible by the Hackney Council executive).

I believe that you will find that about 94 formal reports were issued by the Ombudsman in the period. This as you are aware is very different to a finding of maladministration causing injustice. Please identify if there were in fact about 520 findings of maladministration causing injustice at Hackney whilst Jerry WHITE was its Chief Executive.

Would you please identify if my understanding is correct. This issue I believe is of interest to a large number of Council's as on the Ombudsman's own assertions their Local Performance Indicators are flawed. I would not dream of questioning an Ombudsman's discretion in determining what maladministration and injustice is.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart HARDWICKE CARRUTHERS

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From: Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Hilary POOK,

There appears to have been changes in government guidance in relation to records related to complaints (Public Record Office).

A number of Council's are now identifying that a complaint is only an Enquiry (and that records only need to be retained for three years) even if the Ombudsmen identify that there should be a local settlement - following an investigation (and this is agreed by a Council). In other cases the LGO makes a discretionary decision to discontinue an investigation (often following an investigation). Council's are also identifying that complaints to the LGO and identified as premature are also only enquiries.

Complaint files that have been subject to an investigation are expected to be kept open and be easily accessible for at least ten years according to Government guidance. Statistical files for five years , registers of complaints for 10 years, and all reviews of complaints for 10 years.

Only the Ombudsman is able to determine what maladministration is and if a complaint of maladministration resulting in a local settlement is a valid complaint or merely an enquiry. Jerry WHITE I think is the only LGO who was appointed prior to the FoI Act (and whose decisions consequently will not be coloured by being responsible for its administration), and as such the Hackney record was used to illustrate the point.

There is a need to know if a complaint settled by a Council and in which an LGO has been involved is a finding of maladministration and injustice against a Council in the opinion of the Ombudsmen or merely an enquiry. This has no bearing on what the Ombudsman might consider to be maladministration (valid complaint to themselves). It does provide clarification if Council's are breeching FoI by not maintaining their records. It would appear that a number of Council's are also identifying that their statistical files are merely enquiries as well.

It is understood that this confusion (on behalf of Council's) causes significant work for both the Information Commissioner and the Ombudsmen as people who believe that they have had a valid complaint against a Council are unable to access the information that they believe should be held.

Internal review on this issue is requested - as it is believed to be a question that only the LGO's themselves can answer. The legislation appears to indicate that any issue that the LGO is requested to investigate should be treated as a complaint by both the LGO and a Council (against home complaint has been brought), and that Council's should not be treating these as enquiries as part of their record management systems.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Hardwicke Carruthers

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Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS left an annotation ()

Request for internal review

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From: Hilary Pook
Local Government Ombudsmen


Attachment CS 08 0058 Hardwicke Carruthers.doc
39K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

I attach a letter in response to the request below.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

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From: Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Hilary Pook,

Many thanks for your reply. I recognise that the request is unusual. However, this is because the position of the Ombudsmen is unique, effectively they are a biological recording device. The Ombudsmen themselves [as a function] maintain the record, and determine what maladministration actually is.

The issue is simple. There is a need to know if a complaint settled by a Council and in which an LGO has been involved is a finding of maladministration and injustice against a Council in the opinion [recording and processing of the facts] of the Ombudsmen or merely an enquiry [as based on their biological recording of the facts, and a decision made on the biological processing of the facts by the Ombudsman as a function rather than a person], and taking into account that a Council as part of local settlement normally apologies, provides compensation, etc.

i.e. is a local settlement [where the council apologises, provides compensation, changes procedures, etc.] an admission of maladministration and injustice by a Council that does not require the LGO to issue a formal report still maladministration. A complainant is required to apply to the Ombudsman for a determination... following a failure in a Council's complaints process... Is a local settlement still maladministration causing injustice.. as recorded and processed by the Ombudsmen themselves ?

Council's will and can determine the meaning and contents of an Ombudsman's annual letter or correspondence as they choose. It is not necessarily correct.. as only the Ombudsman themselves as a function are able to determine what maladministration actually is..

Internal review on this request is requested.. and it relates to if information recorded and processed by an Ombudsman themselves [as a function] that determines the format of other records is itself a record.

Effectively is a local settlement a finding of maladministration or not?

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Hardwicke Carruthers

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From: Hilary Pook
Local Government Ombudsmen


Attachment CS 08 0058 Hardwicke Carruthers2.doc
39K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

Please find attached a letter in response to your message below.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

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