Making scrutiny easier

But how many are aware of the information already out there to help them do that – especially from their own ombudsman?

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates complaints about councils and social care providers in England. Over recent years, we have released increasingly more information and become more transparent about our investigations.

We already publish lots of data, but admittedly it might have taken the curious inquisitor a little effort to translate what it all meant for their council. The recent launch of our interactive map – ‘Your council’s performance’ – is a small step along this journey, but a giant leap towards making our data more accessible and relevant for councillors.

With one click from our website homepage you can search for any English council, pull up all our data on it, and easily compare it with that of other similar authorities. This is some of the information you will find:

  • Uphold rates – the simple number of complaints we receive is not such an intelligent way of judging local service quality. It is much more telling to see the type and proportion of complaints we uphold. Click through to see all the individual cases where we found the council at fault.
  • Compliance data – we ask councils for evidence they have implemented the recommendations we’ve made to put things right in a complaint. See whether your council has complied with everything. If a council hasn’t complied, it may indicate poor corporate grasp and oversight.
  • Suitable remedies – you can find the amount of cases where the council has provided a suitable offer to put things right, before we investigated. This can show a mature attitude towards accepting fault and making amends.

I have long believed the full value in investigating problems with local government services rests in the wider learning that can be shared from them. If we ask councils simply to fix things one case at a time, and in isolation, we risk not doing justice to the courage and persistence people sometimes show in pursuing their case with the council and then bringing it to us.

“Councillors can get a handle on what their local authority is doing to learn from complaints and improve services for everybody

This is why our map especially focuses on the ‘service improvement’ recommendations we make, by detailing each one the council has agreed to. These are practical things such as changing policies, reviewing the cases of other people in a similar situation, or training staff on correct procedure – all designed to stop the same problems recurring and other people suffering.

By looking at this information, councillors can get a handle on what their local authority is doing to learn from complaints and improve services for everybody.

We’ve already seen stories of elected members calling for a review of adult social care services after analysing their council’s data and realising we were investigating a larger number, and upholding a higher proportion, of complaints than other similar authorities.

There are many other uses. The key thing is that scrutineers can use it to assess easily the local impact of current national issues. It adds to the range of other resources we have for councillors, like suggested scrutiny questions for our national topic reports. I urge you to check your council’s performance.

See www.lgo.org.uk/your-councils-performance for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s interactive map.

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