Complaints data for London councils issued today

Complaints data for every council in London for 2020-21 has been published today by the Local Government and Social Care ombudsman as part of its annual review of local government complaints.

For every authority, the data contained within the report, which analyses all the complaints and enquiries the LGSCO has received over the past 12 months, is uploaded onto the ombudsman’s interactive map, which now contains three years of searchable data.

Data from this year’s statistics shows for London:

26% of all complaints from this area – the biggest proportion of complaints from any region
72% uphold rate, up from 70% – second highest uphold rate nationwide, and higher than the national uphold rate of 67%
Most complaints are about Housing (23% was 21%) – highest in the country
Fewest complaints about Corporate and Other (4% was 4%) – lowest proportion in the country
Highest uphold rate: Children and Education (83%) – joint second highest in the country – was Environmental Services (76% now 64%)
Lowest uphold rate: Corporate and other (57%) and Planning (52%)
This region has the highest uphold rate in the country for Housing (76%)
This region also has the smallest proportion of its complaints about Adult Care Services (11%), and Planning (8%)
This region also has the highest percentage of its complaints nationally about Highways and Transport (18%)
Nationally, over the past year the Ombudsman has upheld a greater proportion of investigations– 67% – than ever before. This continues an upward trend since the Ombudsman started publishing its uphold rate.

Despite being closed to new complaints at the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown, and so registering fewer complaints than recent years, the Ombudsman still received 11,830 complaints and enquiries from members of the public.

The investigations undertaken over the past year have led to 3,104 recommendations to put things right for individuals.

Perhaps more importantly, there were 1,488 recommendations for councils to improve their services for others – such as revising procedures and training staff. This is a higher proportion of the total number of recommendations than previous years, and suggests Ombudsman investigations are increasingly finding systemic problems than one-off mistakes with local government services.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“We’ve been issuing our annual reviews for the past seven years now, and while every year has seen its challenges, this year seems to have been the most difficult for local authorities.

“While the way local authorities dealt with the pressures of COVID-19 is still being played out in our casework, early indications suggest it is only widening the cracks that were already there, and has deepened our concerns about the status of complaints services within councils. These concerns are not new and cannot be wholly attributed to the trials of the pandemic.

“I am concerned about the general erosion to the visibility, capacity, and status of complaint functions within councils.

“Listening to public complaints is an essential part of a well-run and properly accountable local authority, committed to public engagement, learning, and improvement. I know the best councils still understand this and put local democracy and good complaints handling at the forefront of their services.”

The Ombudsman also writes to local councils giving them a round-up of the complaints the organisation has received about them. These letters are published on the Ombudsman’s website.

The report also highlights across England:

Compliance with LGSCO recommendations has remained high (99.5%), demonstrating councils’ continuing commitment to putting things right.
Fault was found in more than three quarters of complaints investigated about Education and Children’s Services (77%). There was an increase in the uphold rate of all categories of complaint, other than Environmental Services & Protection.
11,830 complaints and enquiries registered
In 11% of upheld cases, councils had already offered a suitable remedy
1,726 cases with recommendations to put things right
3,104 recommendations to remedy personal injustice
1,488 recommendations to improve services for others
The Ombudsman issues a separate annual review for the Adult Social Care cases it investigates, covering both local councils and independent care providers. This report is published in the Autumn.

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