Third of complaints against Northumberland County Council upheld after ombudsman investigates

Around a third of the complaints about Northumberland County Council investigated by the ombudsman last year were upheld.

Saturday, 8th August 2020, 6:00 am
Northumberland County Council

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman last week issued its complaints statistics for all authorities as part of its annual review.

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 North East was responsible for 4% of the complaints last year, with the region seeing a 55% uphold rate.

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The majority were about children and education (30%), while it had the highest uphold rate in the country – 80% – in relation to benefits and tax.

In Northumberland, there were nine upheld decisions from a total of 26 detailed investigations for the period between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.

This uphold rate of 35% compares favourably to an average of 56% in similar authorities.

Three of the upheld decisions were to do with planning applications, with another three related to children’s services and care. The others covered highway adoption, disabled facilities grants, and council tax.

The ombudsman’s annual letter to the council, sent to chief executive Daljit Lally in July, stated: ‘While I welcome that the council agreed to and implemented the recommendations made during the year, it is disappointing that in two cases, remedies were not completed within the agreed timescales.

‘While I appreciate the pressures local authorities are under, delays in implementing remedies can add to complainants’ injustice.

‘Additionally, the actions you agree to take, and your performance in implementing them, are reported publicly on our website, so are likely to generate increased public and media scrutiny in future.

‘I would ask the council to reflect on the way it implements remedies, with a view to providing us with more timely responses in the future.’

It later adds: ‘We were pleased to deliver two complaint-handling courses to your staff during the year. I welcome your council’s investment in good complaint-handling training and trust the courses were useful to you.’

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