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Law Commission recommends ombudsmen procedure change

3 September 2010

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The Law Commission has said the complaint procedure over poor public services will be made easier when planned changes to the “outdated and inconsistent” public service ombudsmen come into force.

The overhaul is designed to bring more consistency to the way business is conducted by the public services ombudsmen, and to make them more accessible to the public.

According to the group, which reviews and recommends law reform in England and Wales, the move will also keep cases out of court.

Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, said the ombudsmen have an important role to play in ensuring cases of administrative injustice suffered by individuals are resolved.

She said:”By improving access to these ombudsmen, we can reduce the burden that falls on the citizen, public bodies and the courts, and realise savings for citizens and government.”

The commission’s proposals include a strengthening of the role of Parliament, a general presumption in favour of a public services ombudsman being able to open a complaint, and a power allowing matters to be transferred from the courts to the ombudsmen.

It also recommended dispensing with the requirements that a complaint must be in writing and that complaints to the parliamentary ombudsman must go through an MP.

Its consultation, which closes on 3 December, focuses on the work of the parliamentary commissioner, the local government ombudsman, health service commissioners, the independent housing ombudsman and the public services ombudsmen for Wales.

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