Ombudsman gives verdict on county

THE Local Government Ombudsman received 89 complaints and inquiries about Suffolk County Council last year.

The figure is a ‘notable’ increase from the 61 registered the previous year with more than two thirds concerning education and children’s services, according to the watchdog.

In one case involving special educational needs, a child did not receive certain support for about a year.

The ombudsman has confirmed it decided 53 complaints against the authority and in 24 cases found no or insufficient evidence of maladministration or injustice or they used their discretion not to pursue the matter.

However, in 21 cases (46.7 per cent) the county council took action to resolve the matter via a local settlement – 19.6 per cent more than the national average.

In a letter to the authority, ombudsman Anne Seex said eight cases were outside her remit to investigate.

She noted that 10 settlements involved education with four relating to special educational needs.

In one case, she said: “Fault by the council meant that, for around a year, a child did not receive the literacy and numeracy support set out in his statement.”

The authority agreed to pay £1,050 in recognition of the delay and arranged training for an existing teacher to provide the specialist support.

In another incident, she said: “The council failed to carry out a child protection investigation, despite there being evidence to suggest such action was appropriate.”

It had already agreed to pay the complainant’s ‘substantial’ legal costs and more than £4,000 in compensation.

Other settlements involved complaints about antisocial behaviour, adult care as well as children’s and family services.

A council spokesman said: “Whilst the number of complaints received has gone up 7% on last year, this is a significant reduction on the 2008/09 result and demonstrates a positive overall trend.

“We are committed to ensuring that learning from complaints is both implemented and evidenced.”