Town hall watchdog verdicts revealed

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

The local government watchdog upheld a dozen complaints about Wigan Council and received 77 inquiries about the town hall in a 12-month period, new figures reveal.

Data released by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) showed a total of 85 decisions about the authority were made in 2015-16.

In the last year only 19 complaints were investigated by the ombudsman and 12 of those were upheld

Paul McKevitt

Wiganers most commonly approached the ombudsman during the last financial year about benefits and tax matters, with 16 enquiries on the subject, followed by education and children’s services with 14 cases.

There were also 10 inquiries about corporate services and about issues involving environmental matters, the protection of the public and regulation.

However, the ombudsman’s figures show most of the enquiries were not fully investigated by the watchdog, with 33 of the inquiries in 2015-16 being referred back to Wigan Council and 28 being closed after the initial inquiries.

Only 19 cases were followed through all the way to a final decision, with 63 per cent of those being upheld as complaints against the council and the other seven cases finding in the town hall’s favour.

Wigan Council deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt said: “In the last year only 19 complaints were investigated by the ombudsman and 12 of those were upheld.

“The overall figure published by the LGO is higher than this because, for example, it includes people who make inquiries but then never contact the council with a complaint.

“We strive to provide the most efficient, value for money services to local residents. We welcome constructive criticism and feedback help us improve services.

“We take all complaints very seriously and will always seek fair and transparent resolutions in a timely manner.”

The LGO data shows inquries were also made with the watchdog about Wigan Council’s provision of adult social care, highways and transport, housing and planning and development.

Three of the complaints were rejected because they were invalid or incomplete and two were resolved simply by the watchdog giving advice.

Eight cases were solved by the LGO and the council took action to remedy a further two incidents.

Nationally the LGO upheld 51 per cent of the detailed investigations in 2015-16, an increase from 46 per cent the previous year.

Overall inquiries and complaints were at a similar level to 2014-15, with 19,702 being received last year.

The LGO saw a 13 per cent rise across the country in people getting in touch about education and children’s services and was most likely to find fault in complaints ahout benefits and tax, with 64 per cent being upheld.

Highways and transport issues were least likely to result in councils being judged at fault, with just 40 per cent being upheld.