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OMBUDSMAN DECISIONS SHOULD NOT BE LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE

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Although the ombudsman service is valued by local authorities as an impartial avenue of last resort, the time it ta...
Although the ombudsman service is valued by local authorities as an impartial avenue of last resort, the time it takes to complete investigations is a matter of real concern, say the Associations of District and County Councils and Metropolitan Authorities.

In their joint submission on the first stage of the fundamental review of the ombudsman service by the DoE, the three associations agree that it is important to have an independent system for investigating and resolving complaints by the public of injustice caused by maladministration, and the clear demarcation between the roles of the courts and of the ombudsman should be retained.

Although the public have had direct access to the ombudsman since 1988, which has led to a considerable rise in complaints, the number of investigations that result in a finding of maladministration is very small.

Speaking on behalf of the three associations, ADC chairman Peter Greenwood said:

'The ombudsman's role needs to be focused more clearly. It should be an avenue of last resort, its approaches should be more flexible and its solutions speedy but satisfactory.

'As the overwhelming majority of the ombudsman's decisions are implemented, we do not believe that its decisions should be legally enforceable. This would be a retrograde step and would lead to a more complex and expensive system.'

The associations also say that while much of the ombudsman's guidance on promoting fair and effective administration in local government, it should be careful not to stray into interpretation of legal or policy issues.

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