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Maladministration

Volume 29: debated on Thursday 28 October 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) whether he will bring forward proposals to extend to England the provisions of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints Act 1967, section 7, subsections (2) to (10), which allow a complainant to apply to the county court for compensation if the Commissioner for Complaints has found injustice caused by maladministration but the body concerned has not provided a satisfactory remedy; and if he will make a statement;(2) whether he will bring forward proposals to provide for the more equitable application of suitable remedies for cases of injustice arising out of maladministration found by the Commission for Local Administration and where no suitable remedy has been applied; and whether he will make a statement;(3) whether he will publish in the

Official Reportdetails of the total number of cases referred to the Commission for Local Administration in England since its establishment in which local commissioners have reached findings

Year

Report finding maladministration and injustice

Satisfactory settlement

Unsatisfactory outcome

Awaiting settlement

1974–7833130130
1978–79186171114
1979–80213192147
1980–81166135625
1981–82158571100
Total1,05485662136
Taken from report of the Commission for Local Administration in England for year ended 31 March 1982, page 6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) whether, in the light of the view expressed by the chairman of the Commission for Local Administration in England in her last annual report, he will bring forward proposals that people should be able to complain to a local commissioner either direct or through a member of the authority involved:(2) whether he will publish in the

Official Reportdetails of the system of ombudsmen operating in each of the countries of the European Community; and in how many of those countries it is necessary for a complainant to go through an intermediary in order to make a complaint.

The recommendation that a complainant should be enabled to make his complaint to a local commissioner either through a member of the authority involved, as now, or direct to the commissioner was one of a series of recommendations made by the commission following a review of the legislation under which it operates. I discussed a provisional response with members of the commission in July and am giving further consideration to some matters in light of the discussion. I shall write to my hon. Friend when decisions are reached.

of maladministration leading to injustice; in how many of those cases the commissioner concerned has been dissatisfied with the action taken by the appropriate local authority to remedy the injustice; and whether he will make a statement;

(4) whether he will bring forward proposals to extend to England the procedure applying in Northern Ireland which does not require second reports from the commissioner in cases of non-compliance with the findings of the commissioner by a local authority; and if he will make a statement;

(5) whether the proportion of cases of maladministrations brought to the attention of the local government ombudsman when suitable remedies have not been applied has risen since 1978; how many cases are involved in each year; and if he will make a statement.

The commission's annual report for 1981–82 shows that from 1974 when the commission was set up until 31 March 1982 the commissioners had found maladministration in 1,054 cases. A conclusion had been reached on 918 of these cases and the outcome is regarded as unsatisfactory in 62 of these. This represents nearly 7 per cent. of cases settled, a proportion which has increased over the years. Column 4 of the following table from the report shows the numbers of these cases related to the years in which the relevant reports were made.I have noted this situation and will keep it in view. I have no present plans to introduce amending legislation.The information sought about systems in other countries is not readily available.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, in the light of the report of the Commission for Local Administration in England 1981–82, he is satisfied with the length of time taken by many local authorities before providing a satisfactory remedy for injustice; and if he will make a statement.

The commission's annual report for 1981–82 shows that in 27 per cent. of cases where maladministration leading to injustice has been found, six months have elapsed before the local commissioner has been able to signify his satisfaction with the outcome. It is clearly desirable that where a remedy for injustice is provided it should be provided expeditiously and I hope local authorities will do all they can to improve the situation.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is satisfied with the time it takes for complaints of maladministration to be investigated by local commissioners of the Commission for Local Administration in England; and whether he will publish in theOfficial Reportthe average time taken in England in 1981–82 from the receipt of a complaint to the issue of a formal report.

For 1981–82 the average time from receipt of a complaint to the issue of a formal report was 38 weeks. The commission's annual reports show that the average has fallen over the years from 1977–78, when it was 47·6 weeks, despite a steady increase in the number of complaints dealt with. I welcome this continuing improvement.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the average time in 1981–82 which elapsed between the first report of a local government ombudsman and his second report on the same case, where the second report was occasioned by the local authority's failure to meet his first report's findings.

The annual report of the Commission for Local Administration in England for the year ending 31 March 1982 records that the average time between the first report of a commissioner and the second report was 38 weeks for the 10 second reports issued in that year.