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SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE TO MODERNISE PUBLIC SECTOR COMPLAINTS SYSTEM

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Minister for finance, Jack McConnell, took the first steps towards creating a new, modern complaints system for the...
Minister for finance, Jack McConnell, took the first steps towards creating a new, modern complaints system for the Scottish public sector today when he launched a consultation on ombudsmen

The minister, who has responsibility for modernising government, said he was determined to establish a system which would have the trust of the Scottish people.

One of the innovative ideas in the paper is the concept of a 'one-stop shop' bringing all the Scottish public sector ombudsmen together to make access easier for people who have a complaint. Other issues discussed include whether complaints need to go through MSPs and whether ombudsmen should be able to enforce recommendations.

Speaking at the launch of the consultation paper 'Modernising the complaints system', Mr McConnell said: 'A modern complaints system for the Scottish public sector will be open, accountable, easily accessible to everyone and one that people can trust.

'Initially, we need to stimulate public debate and hear from a broad range of people and organisations, particularly those who will actually use the system.

'That's why I am arranging for this paper to go to more than 800 organisations and individuals and be published on the executive's website. MSP's will also be asked for their views.

'Complaints from the public must be addressed properly by authorities with grievances thoroughly investigated and action taken when maladministration has taken place.

'But complaints are also positive tools to improve services, learn from feedback and develop better services and communications for the future.

'I want to remove barriers, cut through bureaucracy and set standards for response which achieve these aims. In particular I welcome views on a one stop shop for Ombudsmen, our proposal to handle complaints more directly by individuals and the options for powers to enforce action by public authorities who have been guilty of maladministration.

'I hope this paper will stimulate a full and thorough debate on the work of ombudsmen so that we can create a modern complaints system for a 21st century Scotland.'

BACKGROUND

1. Modernising the Complaints System takes a fundamental look at the role of Scottish public sector ombudsmen.

Among the issues discussed are:

-combining the Ombudsman offices into a one-stop shop;

-the types of complaints which ombudsmen should be able to investigate and the authorities which should come within their jurisdiction;

-how to improve the accessibility of ombudsmen;

-should an ombudsman be able to initiate investigations himself or should an authority be able to request an ombudsman to carry out an investigation?

-the terms, conditions and other arrangements for appointing ombudsmen;

-what would be an appropriate, title for the job?

-whether Ombudsmen be able to enforce their recommendations;

-investigation procedures;

-evidence gathering powers;

-reporting arrangements;

-finance and staffing arrangements.

2.This is an initial consultation intended to stimulate public debate on the work of the ombudsmen, rather than setting out firm proposals. Detailed proposals based on the responses will be the subject of a further round of consultation next year.

3. The consultation document is being circulated to more than 800 organisations and individuals, including special interest and community groups, public bodies and professional and trade organisations. Copies can be obtained from the address below and it is also available on the Scottish Executive's website at www.scotland.gov.uk.

Responses are requested by 10 January 2001 and should be sent to:

Stephen Bruce

Scottish executive

Constitutional policy branch

Area 1-W

St Andrew's House

Regent Road

Edinburgh

EH1 3DG

E-mail

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