English councils more at fault than last year, complaints statistics show

By Dylan McCullagh
August 4 2020, 13.00

Councils across England are being found at fault more often, complaints statistics published last week reveal.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s annual Review of Local Government Complaints gathered data about the complaints received and decided on, by them, in the year to March 2020.

The Ombudsman upheld 61% of complaints investigated in detail in 2019-20, up from 58% the previous year, demonstrating that councils were found at fault more often.

However, the number of cases where the Ombudsman agreed with complaints remedied by councils also increased to 13%, up from 11%.

The number of service improvement recommendations increased by 12% to 1,629.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King said: “These service improvements highlight the power one single complaint can have – when dealt with properly – to prevent problems reoccurring and improve services for others.”

London accounted for a quarter of the Ombudsman’s workload, and had the highest complaint uphold rate in the country at 70%, suggesting that on average London councils don’t perform as well as councils in other areas of the country.

No south west London council was complaint-free.

Of south west London’s 1,076 total complaints, 23% were about housing, 16% were in education and children’s services, and 12% were for adult social care.

Across England there were 910 detailed investigations into children’s and education services, which accounted for 21% of the Ombudsman’s total workload. 72% of complaints made in this area were upheld.

Mr King voiced concern over this sector’s ability to properly provide Education, Health and Care plans, saying there had been ‘continued failings’ such as severe delays, poor communication and a lack of oversight from senior managers. He urged councils to learn from the experiences of families highlighted in the Ombudsman’s focus reports on the issue.

Overall, councils’ compliance with the Ombudsman’s recommendations was 99.4%.

Mr King added: “Councils’ readiness to implement our practical recommendations to improve the services they provide demonstrates the sector has a mature attitude to complaint handling – one which we have advocated throughout our work.”

The annual review is designed to allow for public scrutiny of local government processes, hold councils accountable where necessary, and allow them to effectively respond to complaints.

Last year the Ombudsman launched an interactive online map where people can view their council’s performance record.

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