Council complaints up in city and down in county

First published in News Banbury Cake: Photograph of the Author by

COMPLAINTS to the local government ombudsman about Oxfordshire County Council are down by almost a third.

In the year ending March 2012, the independent body received 47 complaints about the council, 19 fewer than the previous year, amounting to a 29 per cent decrease.

The ombudsman acts as a “next resort” for people who feel their complaints to the council itself are not being addressed.

But in all 47 instances, the cases were either thrown out or dealt with during the investigation process.

County solicitor and monitoring officer Peter Clark said: “I am pleased to say that the LGO has ‘no concerns’ about the council’s performance in handling complaints.

“The LGO made no findings of maladministration against the council and has been satisfied with the council’s willingness to find local settlements in the closure of five cases. The council’s average response time is also well within the LGO’s targets and is consistent with last year.

“Vigilance is still needed to ensure this standard continues and the scheduled LGO training for managers will assist in strengthening the council’s commitment to good governance in handling complaints.”

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He said the decrease was “largely due to significantly fewer complaints about education and children’s services”.

Mr Clark said: “Of these 47 complaints, the LGO found nine to be ‘premature’, meaning the council had not previously had the opportunity to consider them.”

He said a further nine complainants were simply given advice and the remainder were formally considered.

Complaints about Oxford City Council were up by 25 per cent after it received 50, compared with 40 in the previous year. Only 18 of the cases were considered and none of them were upheld.

A council spokesman said it was unable to explain why the number of complaints had gone up.

But council leader Bob Price welcomed the fact none of the complaints led to further action.

He said: “It reflects the fact we have a very good internal complaints system within the council and we’re keen that people who are unhappy should use that to address the problem directly.”

An example of the cases dealt with by the ombudsman was a complaint against the city council of maladministration from Save Temple Cowley Pools campaigner Jane Alexander.

It followed the council standards committee's rejection then-Councillor Bryan Keen had broken the councillors' code of conduct after Ms Alexander claimed she had been assaulted during a meeting. The committee said it based much weight on a police statement saying Cllr Keen's conduct did not constitute assault.

The ombudsman threw out the complaint of maladministration.

  • The final three sentences were amended on September 25 for clarity.

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