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Appendices

Appendix 1

2003

Number

Complaint

Details

1Planning EnforcementA report received in November 2003 advised that the developers had provided compliance submissions which had been forwarded to the Council's legal advisors. In January 2004 we sought further information. The report was finally received in May 2004 (4 months later) following the issue of a pre S.7 letter. According to that report, the Council considered that no further action was warranted following receipt of a compliance letter in September 2003. The case was closed until the complainant contacted the Office again. A further report was requested in September 2004. The Council did not provide the report until August 2005 following the issue of a S.7 Notice
2Failure to ReplyThe Council was requested to provide a report in June 2003. Despite reminders, and two pre S.7 letters, the report was not received until October 2003 (almost 4 months later).
3Disabled Persons GrantThe report in this case was requested in November 2003. Despite reminders, it was not received until March 2004 (4 months later).
4Road FloodingA report requested in October 2003 was received in January 2004. There did not appear to be any real justification for this delay as the report contained essentially historical information
5Acquisition of Land RightsA report was requested in November 2003 but was not received until May 2004 (6 months later) following the issue of a pre S.7 letter. As this report did not fully address the matters raised, the Council was asked for comprehensive report on all the issues raised in the initial request in November, 2003. By July 2004, when the report had still not been received, a further pre S.7 letter issued and the report was finally received in August 2004, almost 9 months after the original request.
6Signatures on LettersThe Council was asked to provide a report in July 2003. This was not received until December 2005 (5 months later) following the issue of a pre S.7 letter. This case also showed long delays in obtaining a further report which was requested in June 2004 and not received until October 2004, despite written and telephone reminders.
7Planning EnforcementThe first report was requested in July 2003 but was not received until November (4 months later). In June 2004 further information was requested. By August, when the information had not been provided, a S.7 Notice issued and the report was received later that month.
8Transfer of TitleA report was requested in October 2003. A pre S.7 letter issued in January following which an interim reply was received. A further interim reply was also received in February 2004. By October it became necessary to issue a further pre S.7 letter and the report was finally received in November 2004, over a year after the initial request.

2004

9Housing AllocationA report requested in November 2004 was not received until February 2004 (3 months later) following reminders and a pre S.7 letter. The information requested and provided was quite basic, yet it took almost 3 months to provide it.
10Failure to ReplyThe complaint concerned the Council's failure to reply to the complainant. Our request sought the reasons for that failure and a copy of the response that had, or would issue. It took almost 4 months to get a response from the Council following reminders and a pre S.7 letter.
11Housing RepairsThis complaint arose out of difficulties created as a result of work carried out by the Council's agents. A report was requested in March 2005 but not received until June 2005 (3 months later). As the person dealing with the matter had been ill, there were understandable reasons for the delay at that stage. Further information was requested in June 2005. Two reminders were issued and the Council subsequently advised in September 2005 that it had no record of our correspondence. The response which was finally received in October 2005, contained four lines which included an apology for the delay and an offer of redress to resolve the matter. Three pre S.7 letters issued in this case before the responses required were received.
12Housing repairs

The request for a report in this case issued in September 2004. In December 2004 the Council telephoned to say that it had no record of the complainant and the report subsequently received in December confirmed this. However, in February 2005, an acknowledgement was received from the Council to the effect that the Council was awaiting a detailed report and would contact us again.

The Council's responses in this case resulted in the Ombudsman giving the complainant incorrect information. We subsequently went back to the Council to establish the position, and it took a further 2 months to get the response.

13Planning Enforcement

A report was requested in June 2004. However, an Enforcement Notice subsequently issued in November 2004, but this Office was not provided with a report until 14 January 2005 (7 months later) following the issue of a S.7 Notice in January 2005.

Further information was sought in February 2005 and an interim report received in April 2005. As the report had not been received a further S.7 Notice issued in August 2005 and the response was received later that month. However, the matter had not been finalised. The case was brought to the attention of the new SEO in Planning in the course of a meeting on 8 December 2005 and a follow up letter issued to the Council on 13 December 2005. The report which was finally received in March 2006, stated that the complainant had been advised on 4 November 2005 that the developer was now in compliance. However, there was no explanation for the delays and no reason was given as to why the Ombudsman could not have been advised at the same time as the complainant. It was unsatisfactory from the Ombudsman's point of view, to be writing to the complainant months after the matter had been finalised.

It was necessary to issue two S. 7 Notices in this case.

14Planning AdministrationA report was requested in August 2004. It was not received until January 2005 (5 months later) following the issue of a S.7 Notice.
15Planning EnforcementCase was the subject of two pre S.7 letters due to long delays in providing information requested

2005

16Planning EnforcementThe complaint was referred to the Council for a report in May 2005 but the report was not received until August 2005 following the issue of a S.7 Notice
17Housing RepairsA report was requested in April 2005 but not received until July 2005 following the issue of a S.7 Notice. Once received, it was possible to close the case within a very short period.
18Planning EnforcementReport requested in May 2005. The report was received in August 2005 following the issue of a pre S.7 letter.
19Waste ChargesReport requested in March 2005 but not received until June 2005 following the issue of a pre S.7 letter. Case concerns a refusal to grant a waiver. A further report was requested in November but not responded to until February 2006.
20Planning AdministrationA report requested in October 2005 was not received until March 2006 (6 months later) following the issue of a pre S.7 letter and a further letter in January 2006.
21Access to Information on the EnvironmentReport requested September 2005 but was not received until May 2006 following a pre S.7 letter, a meeting with the Council and a follow up letter.
22Waste ChargesReport requested December 2005 and not received until February 2006 following a pre S.7 letter.
23Planning EnforcementReport requested May 2005 seeking some very straight forward information was not received until August 2005 following a S.7 Notice.
24Housing RepairsReport requested August 2005 but not received until November 2005 following the issue of a S.7 Notice.
25Road RepairsReport requested October 2005 but not received until January 2006 following the issue of a S.7 Notice. This was quite a straight forward case with no obvious reason for such a delay.

2006

26Planning EnforcementReport requested January 2006 but was not received until June following the issue of a S.7 Notice. .
27Planning AdministrationReport requested November 2006. A pre S.7 letter issued 31 January 2007. The report was received on 14 February 2007.
28Planning AdministrationReport requested October 2006. A S.7 Notice issued 15 January 2007 and the report was received on 5 February 2007.
29Planning EnforcementReport requested August 2006. Report not received until January 2007 following the issue of a S.7 Notice.
30Roads/TrafficReport requested September 2006 and not received until January 2007 following the issue of a S.7 Notice.
31Planning AdministrationReport requested July 2006 and received in November 2006 following the issue of a pre S.7 letter.
32Planning AdministrationReport requested August 2006. S.7 Notice issued 29 December and report received 8 January 2007.
33Planning EnforcementReport requested November 2006. A S.7 Notice issued on 2 March 2007 and a response was received on 16 March 2007
34Housing Loans & GrantsReport requested on 1 November 2006 but not received until 28 February 2007 following the issue of a pre S.7 letter.
35Derelict SitesReport requested July 2006. S.7 Notice issued 8 December 2006 and report received 8 January 2007.

 

Appendix 2

Extracts from Ombudsman Act, 1980

7.(1) (a) The Ombudsman may, for the purposes of a preliminary examination, or an investigation, by him under this Act, require any person who, in the opinion of the Ombudsman, is in possession of information, or has a document or thing in his power or control, that is relevant to the examination or investigation to furnish that information, document or thing to the Ombudsman and, where appropriate, may require the person to attend before him for that purpose and the person shall comply with the requirements.

(b) Paragraph (a) of this subsection does not apply to information or so much of a document as relates to decisions and proceedings of the Government or of any committee of the Government and for the purposes of this paragraph, a certificate given by the Secretary to the Government and certifying that any information or document or part of a document so relates shall be conclusive.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Act. a person to whom a requirement is addressed under this section shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he were a witness before the High Court.

(3) A person shall not by act or omission obstruct or hinder the Ombudsman in the performance of his functions or do any other thing which would, if the Ombudsman were a court having power to commit for contempt of court, be contempt of such court.

(4) Any obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction upon the disclosure of information obtained by or furnished to a Department of State or civil servant imposed by the Official Secrets Act, 1963 shall not apply to an examination or investigation by the Ombudsman under this Act, and, subject to section 9 (2) of this Act, the State shall not be entitled in relation to any such examination or investigation to any such privilege in respect of the production of documents or the giving of evidence as is allowed by law in legal proceedings.

(5) The Ombudsman may, if he thinks fit, pay to the person affected by an action in respect of which an investigation is held by the Ombudsman under this Act and to any other person who attends or furnishes information for the purposes of the investigation--

(a) sums in respect of travelling and subsistence expenses properly incurred by them, and

(b) allowances by way of compensation for loss of their time,

of such amount as may be determined by the Minister.

(6) A statement or admission made by a person in a preliminary examination, or investigation, under this Act by the Ombudsman shall not be admissible as evidence against that person in any criminal proceedings.

(7) Nothing in subsection (3) of this section shall be construed as applying to the taking of any such action as is mentioned in section 4 (7) of this Act.

 

Appendix 3

Guidelines from the Department

Appendix to Circular O.U 2/85

Liaison Officers

1. Each Manager should nominate an officer at senior level to act, for the local authorities for which the Manager has responsibilities, as Liaison Officer with the Ombudsman's Office. The name, official address and telephone number(s) of that officer and, in the future, any change in that information, should be notified both to the Department of the Environment and to the Ombudsman's Office.

2. It is envisaged that the Liaison Officer's main functions will be:-

- to act as the first point of contact in any particular case between the Ombudsman's Office and the local authority;

- to ensure that any written or oral enquiries from the Ombudsman's Office are immediately directed to the appropriate section(s) of the local authority for attention;

- to ensure that all time limits applying to requests for information, etc., from the Ombudsman's Office are met;

- to ensure that all relevant files and documents are readily available for inspection when requested by the Ombudsman's Office;

- to ensure that the Ombudsman's staff are provided with suitable facilities on their visits to the local authority.

3. In nominating an officer for liaison duties regard should be had to the above functions, and also the following aspects:-

- the need for ready access to the Manager;

- the status required to process complaints quickly and effectively within the local authority, and.

- accessibility to the staff of the Ombudsman.

4. It is not anticipated that the functions of Liaison Officer will occupy the full time of the nominated officer.

Examinations/Investigations by the Ombudsman

5. The attached guide to the main provisions of the Ombudsman Act, 1980 gives details of the types of cases which the Ombudsman may, and those which he may not, investigate under the Act. The Ombudsman is empowered to fix whatever procedures he considers appropriate for conducting an investigation. It is hoped, however, to keep formalities to a minimum and, indeed, to dispose of as many complaints as possible by telephone. To this end, if the Ombudsman's Office initiates enquiries into any complaint by means of telephone contacts with a local authority, but subsequently decides to undertake a Formal investigation of that complaint, that investigation will commence with a written communication to the local authority (see paragraph 7) and the earlier telephone conversations will not form part of the Ombudsman's investigation. Local authorities are expected to co-operate fully in such investigations and to support the aim of avoiding unnecessary formalities.

6. In the case of the preliminary enquiry the first person to be contacted by the Ombudsman's Office will be the Liaison Officer. He should, in the case of an enquiry by telephone, indicate what section of the local authority is involved. If possible, he should also supply the Ombudsman's Office with the name of a particular officer who should be in a position to respond to the enquiry, so that the Ombudsman's Office can then contact the officer involved and attempt to resolve the matter. He should ensure that any letter from the Ombudsman's Office is directed to the appropriate section. The Liaison Officer should have an important role to play in resolving any difficulties that may arise.

7. Where the Ombudsman decides to investigate a complaint formally under the Act, the Ombudsman's Office will write to the Manager of the local authority enclosing a written summary of the complaint and requesting written observations on it. Such enquiries should be dealt with as a matter of priority and a reply should issue within 14 days of receipt of the enquiry. The Liaison Officer should be kept informed of developments arising from all enquiries and copies of all replies from the local authority should be sent to him. If a local. authority does not accept that a complaint has properly been referred to it (e.g. if it is of the view that the subject matter is not one for the Ombudsman or if it feels that the complaint is not appropriate to the local authority), the Manager should convey the local authority view in writing to the Ombudsman within 7 days.

Production of Documents Witnesses etc.

8. The Ombudsman may, for the purposes of a preliminary examination or an investigation require that any information or document or any other thing relevant to his examination or investigation should be furnished to him. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman may require any person who, in his opinion, is in possession of any such information, document or other thing to attend before him for the purpose of furnishing it to him. Local authorities must comply with the Ombudsman's requirements in this respect. Subject to the Ombudsman's agreement and to notification of the person concerned, the Liaison Officer may attend any interview between the Ombudsman (or his staff) and the person concerned.  

Cases involving individual Officers or Employees

9. In some cases, a complaint may be directed against the administrative action of an individual officer or employee or the Ombudsman may find it necessary, in order to complete his examination or investigation, to scrutinise in detail the actions taken by an individual officer or employee. In such cases, the officer or employee concerned should be informed immediately that his actions are under scrutiny and he should be given an opportunity or examining, and suggesting amendments to, any draft reply to the Ombudsman in respect of this aspect of the examination/investigation. If the officer or employee is not satisfied that his position has been adequately reflected in any reply which issues to the Ombudsman, he may wish to submit his own comments directly to the Ombudsman. An officer or employee who wishes to make such a submission should be afforded all reasonable facilities to assist him in preparing the submission, including access to the relevant files, if necessary. The time limits applicable to personal submissions to the Ombudsman will be 14 days from receipt of the enquiry from the Ombudsman.

Time off, Expenses etc.

10. In the case of officers or employees who are required to attend before the Ombudsman as described in Paragraph 7 above, it is presumed that attendance will be regarded as part of his official duties.