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51 complaints to Ombudsman – but council resolves them all

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A TOTAL of 51 complaints were made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about Warrington Borough Council last year .

But in all cases, the Ombudsman was satisfied the authority had successfully implemented its recommendations, compared with 99 per cent for similar authorities.
Seven complaints were upheld – 64 per cent compared with 56 per cent for other similar authorities.
Fourteen per cent of the upheld cases were resolved satisfactorily before the complaints reached the Ombudsman, compared with 11 per cent for other similar authorities.
The 51 complaints made at Warrington were in respect of adult and social care (8), benefits and tax (8), corporate and other services (5), education and children’s services (16), environmental services, public protection and regulation (5) highways and transport (3), planning and development (5), other (1).
The Ombudsman closed five cases after making initial enquiries and gave advice in two cases. One complaint was not upheld.
Across the country, the Ombudsman is seeing increasing systemic problems in people’s complaints which has led to it making more wider service improvement recommendations to councils in 2019-20 than ever before.
The review shows the Ombudsman has made more than 1,600 recommendations to improve services for the wider public in the past year – up 12 per cent on the previous year. Service improvement recommendations are when councils agree to review policies, procedures and staff training, to avoid other people being affected by the same fault in a case.
Over the same period the Ombudsman has upheld a greater proportion of the complaints it investigates, from 58 per cent last year to 61 per cent. But on a positive note, this figure includes a higher number of cases where the Ombudsman agreed with the way the council had offered to put things right before the complaint got to the Ombudsman. This figure has increased from 11 per cent to 13 per cent – demonstrating the sector is increasingly learning from its own complaints.
The Ombudsman said 99.4 per cent of its recommendations were agreed and carried out by councils.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While we are seeing more and more complex cases beset by systemic problems, we are also increasingly working with councils to identify the root of those problems and making recommendations to improve the underlying policies and procedures causing them.
“These service improvements highlight the power one single complaint can have – when dealt with properly – to prevent problems reoccurring and improve services for others.
“The cases highlighted in my report reflect the reality of local authority life prior to the Covid-19 crisis, but I believe it is all the more important now to deal with complaints properly and to harness this free public feedback.
“Councils’ readiness on the whole to work with us 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”
A Warrington Borough Council spokesperson said: “We take all complaints seriously and complainants always have the right to make representations to the Ombudsman if they are not satisfied once our internal complaints process is exhausted.
“Last year, we fully complied with the recommendations provided by the LGO in order to resolve the complaints and identify any learning we could take from them. The Audit and Corporate Governance Committee also receive a report regarding Ombudsman complaints. We continually work to improve our processes and services wherever a problem arises.”

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