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A Change to Local Authority Complaints Procedures is Required

View profile for Nathan Davies
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A Change to Local Authority Complaints Procedures is Required

Throughout years of specialising in Education Law, it has been common for the majority of clients we act for to raise grievances and formal complaints with their Authority for a host of reasons; from encountering inordinate delays, misinformation being provided or, in some cases, wholly unreasonable conduct. Having to initiate the internal processes of their Local Authority often leads to further complaints being necessary and very rarely would a satisfactory resolution be achieved. Internal policies and procedures that govern how to review and ultimately resolve complaints are rarely adhered to and seldom impartial. In fact, it is often the case that parents have to complain to the personnel (or certainly the Department) that they are complaining about; a hardly appropriate scenario. Further, many Local Authorities propose a review from an ‘independent person’ as part of their procedures, however these  are often employed by the Authority is some capacity and therefore have very little to no independence.

The Local Government Ombudsman which was  set up to investigate and review complaints and to assess the Authority’s handling of the same, has no real teeth to take them to task. It can only make recommendations (not legally enforceable) and request that the matters/issues are reconsidered. This hardly instils any form of confidence in a potential complainant to use this service.

It is clear that an unbiased, fair process is now required, able to make legally enforceable decisions so that a complainant can obtain satisfactory resolutions and redress; this would, in all likelihood, improve Local Authority practice as it provides a system of accountability where decisions and conduct would be scrutinised via an independent forum. Clear timescales and directions provided by the panel or tribunal would also ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly and address all issues contained within the formal complaint made.
An independent complaints panel, or similar, being set up to review complaints against Authorities across England and Wales is simply essential. Without this, it is difficult to understand how Local Authorities can be held to account without the complainant issuing formal proceedings for negligence or otherwise, which can be financially onerous. Until this happens, complainants will have limited success in navigating the internal complaints route due to the lack of impartiality of Local Authority processes. 

If you would like to pursue a complaint against your Local Authority or seeking redress as to an Education Law matter, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist team on 0333 202 7175 or