The report shows the Ombudsman received 17,452 complaints and enquiries about local government in 2017-18, compared with 16,863 in the previous year.
Significantly, the proportion of complaints it has upheld has increased to 57% – up from 54% the previous year. The Ombudsman has also issued 40% more public interest reports about local authorities in the same period.
With it increasingly challenging authorities on how complaints can improve services more widely, as well as remedying individual injustices, the Ombudsman has made 21% more recommendations for service improvements this year. Recommendations to remedy personal injustice were also up 3% (from 2,428 to 2,566).
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“The raw data included in our report can only tell a part of the story – the wider outcomes from the complaints we receive are far more important than the numbers.
“For a long time, we’ve been pressing just how important complaints can be as a learning tool for local authorities – and a great source of free feedback about the health of the services they provide.
“We know being on the receiving end of an upheld complaint can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly in these difficult times. But this year, we’ve seen some really positive examples of councils taking on board our recommendations, making root and branch reviews of their services and putting in place changes that will help many more than just the person who originally came to us.
“Over the coming year I hope even more councils will take on a more mature and positive reflection of the data we provide, their annual letters and the many focus reports and public interest reports we issue and use these tools to scrutinise where their own services might be improved.”
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.
Since the Ombudsman first started releasing its annual reviews in 2014, its complaint uphold rate has increased sharply from 46%, to 57% of detailed investigations in 2018. In the same period upheld complaints about Children and Education services have increased from 38% to 65%.
Other statistics from across the country from 2017-18 include:
- London accounts for the highest proportion of complaints, of all the regions, with 25% of all complaints being about London authorities
- London also has the highest uphold rate, with 63% of all detailed investigations being upheld
- The South East region has the lowest uphold rate at 48%
- The North East has the highest proportion of Children and Education complaints upheld, with the East Midlands having the lowest proportion
- The North West has the highest proportion of Adult Care complaints upheld, with the South East area having the lowest
- London also has the highest proportion of housing complaints (25%), and the highest uphold rate (68%)