26 April 2002

26 April 2002

Q2 Alison Halford:

In light of the review into ombudsman services in Wales, announced last April, what plans has the Minister to reform the role and powers of the local government ombudsman in Wales? (OAQ16946)

 

Edwina Hart:

We jointly announced with the Secretary of State for Wales that we will undertake a review of all public sector ombudsman services in Wales with the aim of ensuring that the service meets our citizens’ needs. The jurisdiction of all ombudsmen will be considered and you will have an opportunity to contribute to the review as part of a public consultation, which will begin by the end of May.Alison Halford: While the reform of the ombudsman services is a great step forward towards accountability and transparency, combining the role of the monitoring officer with the head of legal services will mean that such officers will investigate themselves, their colleagues and—most importantly—their employer. Does it not cause you concern that so much power and influence is vested in an individual?

 

Edwina Hart:

 I would be concerned if I believed that too much power was being vested in an individual. If you consider the example of a clerk to a police authority, that position is not outside the ombudsman’s jurisdiction but he can only examine certain categories of complaints. However, I will certainly review the matter that you have raised with me, Alison, and I will come back to you.

 

Dafydd Wigley:

 Is the Minister satisfied that recommendations made in ombudsman reports are always implemented effectively by those who have complaints levelled against them? Is it not often true that reports are formally noted but that very little else happens? Is there not a need to give more attention to this to ensure that issues are followed through, and that lessons are learned?

Edwina Hart:

 No specific issue has been drawn to my attention but, in light of your comments, I will take the matter forward. I would be concerned if ombudsman reports’ recommendations were not implemented by organisations.

 

Peter Rogers:

Which councils in Wales are complained against most often and, from your records, what is the main issue of complaint?

Edwina Hart:

 I am not certain that I keep central records of that nature. I see a variety of complaints, some from Assembly Members complaining on behalf of constituents about local government, and some of a general nature, which are not about specific matters. I cannot answer that question fully without a great deal of further investigation. In most cases people complain to their local authority about that authority, but a variety of complaints arise from Members’ dealings with constituents.
 

 

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