Will your complaint get heard as the Government forces the Parliamentary Ombudsman to curb its service?

Rishi Sunak: Postponing the cash to improve the Ombudsman service

The Parliamentary Ombudsman has already – as I wrote in an earlier blog – faced a critical report from MPs on the way it handles some of its work.

And Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, has also turned down any prospect of new legislation to modernise the service by combining its work with the local government and social care ombudsman.

Not content with that, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has now postponed a three year funding programme which would have allowed it to introduce changes to improve matters.

Instead The Treasury has decided to give it just one year’s worth of funding and instructed it to concentrate on handling complaints arising out of Covid 19 pushing aside other grievances..

Details of this latest bad news has not been put out in any press release by the Ombudsman but has been hidden away in the correspondence section of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committtee.

A letter from Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, to William Wragg, the Tory chair of the committee, reveals the not very bright future for people wanting to take the NHS to the Ombudsman or for the 1950s born women hoping for compensation for maladministration over the six year rise in the date they could claim their pension.

In the letter Mr Behrens says “We will postpone the launch of PHSO’s new three-year strategy until we can secure the three-year funding settlement necessary to deliver it. Instead, we will use 2021-22 as a bridging year to lay the foundations for the new strategy and focus on addressing the significant operational challenges facing PHSO’s service.”

Severely affected by Covid – 19

He goes on to describe what next financial year will be like:

“PHSO’s service has been severely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 situation in a number of ways, from the impact of school closures on the availability of staff, to pressures on the NHS that mean services are taking longer to respond to PHSO’s requests for information.
“As a result, PHSO is closing substantially fewer cases than usual and, in turn, this means a growing number of complainants are waiting for their case to be allocated to a caseworker.
“Although we have started to recruit some more caseworkers, it takes a minimum of six months to train new staff and even with additional caseworkers, it is clear that complainants will face increasingly long wait times unless we take further action.”

Delaying revealing the size of the complaints waiting list

I asked the Ombudsman to give me details of how many cases they were and how long they were taking. I also asked about the size of the waiting list. Simple questions enough if they are on top of the job. Instead they have decided to turn it into a Freedom of Information request which will give them a month or two to reply. I will report back when I have the figures.

In the meantime the letter says: “This means we will prioritise the quality and productivity of PHSO’s core complaints-handling service. We will also use 2021-22 to carry out preliminary work to support the new three-year strategy, such as improvements to some of PHSO’s core systems and processes, and highlighting
opportunities for Parliament to make essential improvements to PHSO’s legal framework, such as removing the MP filter.” The latter point is that all complaints have to go through MPs at the moment.

The whole situation is not good at all. But I am not surprised that the government is not keen on funding or modernising the service. A more efficient service will bring to light injustices – which means a bad press for government services – and ministers don’t like bad publicity. Far better to deprive the Ombudsman of cash and keep the announcement hidden in the correspondence column of a committee.

11 thoughts on “Will your complaint get heard as the Government forces the Parliamentary Ombudsman to curb its service?

  1. I worked for the Parliamentary Ombudsman for a decade. While what is said on this is correct, another problem is the constant ‘strategising’, by which layers of parasitic management spend their time ‘restructuring’ the service. When I began working at the London office there was a small human resources department which arranged recruitment and interviewing. By the time I left recruitment had been outsourced, the department had grown into a ‘directorate’ which spent most of its time setting up and administering an ever more complex annual review of investigators, so complex that staff had to waste a day on a course on how to complete the forms. What each newly appointed Ombudsman did was spend a period ‘reviewing’ the structure and work methods, announced a restructuring that interfered with the investigation process for a year. When a new Ombudsman was appointed the same sequence took place, usualy returning to the system as it was before the previous restructuring. Meanwhile, layers of management increased. By the time I left morale was at rock bottom, thanks to a self-perpetuating system that put the investigation of complaints well behind creating a myriad of internal empires.

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  2. Arthur I presume at each restructuring the job titles changed along with the salaries (upwards), while cuts where made at the lowest levels, so a minister could stand up in Parliament and inform the House of the cost effectiveness of the service and then within a month the relabelled posts came into being with their higher salaries. This was a practice carried out by certain local authority, by the end of my time, low paid jobs had been handed over to the private sector and severe cuts made in staffing levels at the bottom of the pyramid to almost turning the pyramid upside down. Then after three years the permant (revolution) change would start again. The reason being the managers failed to understand the role of management and thought it meant restructuring, and the councillors were pleased with the new branding, logo’s and phrases “Changes are on the Horizon” and some new boards would go up on derelict land “Invest in your area Invest in your future”, just before elections.
    I came to the conclusion that if Napoleon was alive he say Britain is a nation of Bureaucrats not shopkeepers.

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  3. i’ve been waiting for over a decade and a half….but starting to suspect the ‘being targeted’ thing is now really being rolled out to the rest of the population…..

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  4. Pingback: Will your complaint get heard as the Government forces the Parliamentary Ombudsman to curb its service? | sdbast

  5. Dear David Hencke,
    So now the so-called WASPI women, have to rely on the BackTo60’s Supreme Court case, for full restitution compensation in some years hence.

    The WASPI complaint would, anyway, only bring a few hundreds pounds per 1950s lady, compensation, if successful.

    Voting TUSC (anti cuts) party in May’s local elections, brings help now, this year, in Labour run councils (TUSC candidates are running against the around 7000 Labour councillors) to 1950s and 1960s born ladies.

    TUSC OFFERS –
    Establishing a local council hardship fund to make non-means tested payments equivalent to the £137.60 a week basic state pension to those denied their pension rights would be possible. With thousands of women born in the 1950s (and now, the 1960s) in every council area, a massive campaign would be needed to force the central government to underwrite the millions in extra council spending this would entail.

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  6. They seem to have Carte Blanche when it comes to avoiding difficult situations, yet another travesty. We will continue to be heard!

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  7. I am registered and receive the lower range of PIP. I am age 61 and that is what I have to live on. I paid in for 42 year . I only stopped working in order to look after my elderly parents whom now sadly have passed during the first lockdown. I find it Disgusting i probably could be dead too before I can collect at 66. I paid in you should pay out.

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  8. They can’t allow a fully-independent and efficient Parliamentary Ombudsman service; it would prevent them giving their mates overpaid contracts, with no punitive clauses on failures to ensure they meet them! Another crony has been appointed to a two-day a week £60k job, for which they apparently have no qualifications (see 38 degrees petition on ending cronyism’. A good Ombudsman would want to know where the £271 billion, misappropriated from the NI pot went, necessitating stealing up to 6 years of womens’ pensions – especially now, as that money would have gone a long way to paying for Covid! Given the corruption in this country, perhaps my only problem is that I’m not a government crony (or lacking in integrity). If you don’t want to stop the lack of integrity in our highest echelons then the best way to cripple the nay-sayers is to get rid of/render impotent those who may actually hold them to account.

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  9. Pingback: Parliamentary Ombudsman: Don’t contact us, we’ll contact you | Westminster Confidential

  10. Pingback: 2663 reasons why the Parliamentary Ombudsman is not working | Westminster Confidential

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