More than a dozen complaints about Ashfield Council lodged with watchdog

More than a dozen complaints about Ashfield Council were lodged with a local government watchdog last year, figures show.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 4:00 pm

The coronavirus pandemic has intensified existing problems, "widened cracks" and contributed to the most difficult time in several years for local authorities nationally, according to the local government and social care ombudsman.

The body looks at complaints about councils and some other authorities, such as adult social care providers and education appeal panels.

Figures from the LGSCO show 15 complaints or enquiries about Ashfield Council were lodged in the year to March, though the ombudsman was closed to new complaints between March and June 2020.

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Ashfield Council's headquarters in Kirkby and, inset, Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman.

That was up from 11 the year before.

The highest number of concerns, five, involved environmental services, public protection and regulation.

Different data shows three cases deemed to warrant a full investigation by the LGSCO were concluded in 2020-21, with none resulting in a complaint being upheld against the council.

The council declined to comment on the report.

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Education and children’s services were the subject of the largest proportion of complaints and enquiries nationally, with more than 2,300 lodged last year.

A further 1,700 related to planning and development, while more than 1,600 were about adult social care.

At the height of the first lockdown, the ombudsman was closed to new cases and halted ongoing investigations.

Pandemic-related disruption contributed to a significant drop in complaints and enquiries across England, with 11,800 received – down from 17,000 the year before.

But the proportion of all cases upheld nationally has grown and was 67 per cent in 2020-21, compared with 61 per cent in 2019-20.

Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said the figures showed investigators were finding fault more often.

He said the growing percentage of upheld social care cases nationally reflected a ‘relentless rise’ in the proportion of cases where care users and their families were let down by local services and the adult social care system was progressively failing to deliver for those who need it most.

A Government spokesman said billions of pounds had been provided to local authorities to address pressures on their services.

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