Ombudsman should have stronger role
The housing ombudsman should lay its annual report before Parliament, a report by the Law Commission has suggested.
The commission, which advises the government on law reform, has launched a consultation into reforming the public services ombudsmen.
The consultation makes a number of proposals which would bring the work of the five ombudsmen – the Parliamentary commissioner for administration, the public services ombudsman for Wales and the local government, health service and housing ombudsmen – into line.
It says the housing and local government ombudsmen would gain useful publicity by being allowed to lay reports from their investigations before Parliament. There is currently no obligation on the housing ombudsman to lay its reports before an elected body, which the commission claims is ‘anomalous’.
Since many of the housing ombudsman’s findings are of interest to MPs in their constituency work, the report suggests that Parliament would be a useful forum for the reports to be published.
The report says: ‘Publicity is at the core of the work of all of the public services ombudsmen. It is undeniable that having access to elected bodies is one of the ways of achieving this.
‘Therefore, we think that the position of the local government ombudsman and the housing ombudsman should be strengthened, so as to give them similar access to this valuable resource as enjoyed by the other public services ombudsmen.’
The commission says its proposed reforms would make it easier for the public to seek redress when they have complaints. It also hopes to reform the work of the ombudsmen to keep cases out of court by giving courts the power to transfer appropriate cases to the relevant ombudsmen.
Frances Patterson QC, the law commissioner leading on the project, said: ‘The public services ombudsmen have a vital role to play in providing remedies for administrative injustice suffered by individuals. 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 consultation runs until 3 December 2010.