Ombudsman happy with how Suffolk deals with complaints

Endeavour House, Ipswich

The ombudsman upheld 20 complaints about Suffolk County Council - but was satisfied about how it dealt with them. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

There were 30 complaints about Suffolk County Council dealt with by the Local Government Ombudsman in 2020/21 – 20 of which were upheld.

But the ombudsman was satisfied with the way that the county dealt with all the complaints after they had been highlighted – and five had been resolved before the ombudsman ever started looking at them.

The proportion of complaints about Suffolk County Council that were upheld was broadly in line with national figure – the 67% in Suffolk was slightly less than the 71% nationally for county councils.

They covered services like the provision of special needs' education, school transport, how the council provided social care and its process for dealing with direct payments for social care.

There was one complaint about Ipswich Council, which was resolved to the ombudsman's satisfaction, and two outstanding complaints that had been made about the former Forest Heath council, now part of West Suffolk, that were also satisfactorily dealt with.

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The ombudsman's office did not deal with any complaints against any other Suffolk councils over the last year.

Nationally there were fewer complaints dealt with last year because no new cases were taken on during the first lockdown between March and June 2020.

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However, Local Government Ombudsman Michael King warned the Covid pandemic was likely to put more strains on councils, leading to more complaints.

He said:  “We’ve been issuing our annual reviews for the past seven years now, and while every year has seen its challenges, this year seems to have been the most difficult for local authorities.

“While the way local authorities dealt with the pressures of Covid-19 is still being played out in our casework, early indications suggest it is only widening the cracks that were already there.

"Listening to public complaints is an essential part of a well-run and properly accountable local authority, committed to public engagement, learning, and improvement.

"I know the best councils still understand this and put local democracy and good complaints handling at the forefront of their services.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: “The council values the important role and work carried out by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) and the good working relationship that is in place.  

"This year’s report demonstrates the council’s ongoing commitment to resolving and learning from complaints and implementing all recommendations made by the Ombudsman.”

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