Council concerns probed by watchdog

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More than 40 complaints against Wigan Council were forwarded to an independent watchdog in the last year, it has emerged.

A total of 75 people registered concerns to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) during 2011/12 about the way the local authority was performing.

Of those, 29 out of 47 of the forwarded cases resulted in investigations. And 18 of those were dropped, two because they had no power to investigate and 16 because they found an investigation would not have been justified.

The most complaints came in the areas of planning and development, environmental services and education and childrens services.

Of the 29 investigations, 10 were recorded that the problem had been resolved as a result. Six were recorded as minor injustices and 13 were stopped due to not enough evidence of a fault. The ombudsman has written to every council chief executive reviewing their performance over the past year. Wigan Council was told that the LGO had no concerns with the time it takes to respond to complaints.

Cabinet champion for corporate resources Coun Ged Bretherton said: “I am delighted that the Local Government Ombudsman was pleased with the way in which Wigan Council handles complaints.

“Wigan Council strives to provide the most efficient, value for money services to local residents. We know that we can’t always get it right. We welcome constructive criticism from all our service users and use this feedback to improve services. We take all complaints very seriously and will always seek fair and transparent resolutions in a timely manner.”

In 2010/2011, 83 people contacted the LGO with complaints with 36 being followed up by investigators.

More than 400 complaints were forwarded across Greater Manchester’s 10 councils this year. Wigan Council had the third highest number behind Manchester City Centre (76) and Stockport (60).

From this year onwards the LGO will be publishing final decision statements on all complaints on their website.

Dr Jane Martin, chair of the LGO, said: “This will help inform citizens about local services and create a new source of information on service failure and injustice.

“We will continue to offer impartial investigation of allegations of injustice caused by maladministration or service failure, to ensure justice and fairness for citizens.”