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Publication date:- 2017-05-08

user-generated Headlines and reports on this page = 3 news items.    Page - 4.

Discover how your Council has performed in Ombudsman's complaint statistics

PEOPLE in the North West can examine the complaints made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about their local authorities in the past year.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints about all local authorities and social care providers in England. Every year it publishes the information it sends to Councils to help with transparency and improve local services for residents. This annual summary is the number of complaints and enquiries it has received about the Council, and the decisions made about those complaints.

In the North West Region:-

The North West Region received 1,919 complaints about Councils in the North West last year.
The North West Region upheld 53%, which follows the national trend.
The highest uphold rate in the North West was in the area of Children's Services and Education at 65%.
The lowest uphold rate was in Planning at 33%.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:- "Our annual data release is a great opportunity for the public, Councillors and Council Officers to gauge how their local authority responds to, and learns from, the complaints we receive about them.  The best Councils use our data to scrutinise the services they provide. I urge all Councils to do that to make their services better in future.  I want to encourage an open and mature attitude to complaints - 1 where they are valued within organisations as 'free feedback' and learning opportunities. Indeed, how an organisation deals with complaints says a lot about its culture. The data we have issued, and wealth of information we publish on our website, are a valuable source of information about complaints handling and Council performance. I would urge people to take a look to see how they can use it to improve or scrutinise their authority's performance."

While issuing the figures this week, the Ombudsman is keen to point out that a high number of complaints does not necessarily mean a Council is performing poorly. It may indicate an authority that welcomes and encourages feedback, through a transparent system which signposts people appropriately when its own processes have been exhausted.

This year (2016 to 2017) the Ombudsman received over 16,500 complaints and enquiries about Council's. The greatest proportion were about Education and Children's Services, followed by Adult Social Care, and Planning

It's not just about numbers though. What matters is the outcome of the complaints investigated in detail and over the year, across England, the Ombudsman upheld 54%. This is up from 51% in 2015 to 2016, and 46% the previous year. The region with the highest proportion of complaints upheld was London (60%), and the lowest was the East Midlands (44%).

Overall, the Ombudsman was most likely to find fault in Adult Social Care cases (64% upheld), and least likely to find fault in complaints about Planning and Development (35% upheld).

One of the Ombudsman's main roles is to remedy injustice, and try to put people back in the position they would have been in, had the fault not occurred. This year, the Ombudsman made 3,562 recommendations to put things right. This included apologies, financial remedies (for example paying for care which should have been provided) and procedural changes to help improve services for others.


New help for small businesses launched

A new Online Tax Forum and dedicated webchat service, for small businesses and the self employed has been launched by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  The 'Small Business Online Forum' is a quick and easy way for small businesses to get answers to their Tax questions as well as help with:-

Starting a business.
Support for growing a business, that includes taking on employees and expanding.
Buying and selling abroad.
Completing Tax Returns.
Tax Credits.

There are 521,000 small businesses in the North West region. The forum can be accessed online.  Linked to the forum, HMRC's new dedicated webchat service offers direct support to businesses and the self employed. Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General, said:- "The UK's 5.4 million small businesses play a vital role in our economy. We want to help businesses get off the ground and support them as they grow.  That is why we are launching a new forum and webchat service which will give these companies useful hints and tips; including how to complete Tax Returns, grow a business and trade outside the UK; so that they can continue to flourish."

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