Ombudsman warns councils not to outsource responsibility

By Laura Sharman | 14 March 2018

Councils have been urged by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) to keep a ‘robust oversight’ of external contractors to ensure accountability is not lost.

LGO, Michael King, has warned the ‘golden thread’ of accountability is often broken when council services are outsourced.

Giving evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Mr King said he was dealing with increasing numbers of complaints about outsourced services.

He said: ‘The law is clear: councils can outsource their services, but not the responsibility for them.

‘Councils need to keep robust oversight of any organisations they contract with and have clear arrangements in place for how complaints will be dealt with.’

Mr King added the LGO was looking at cases of services being provided in such a complex manner that it was hard to tell who was responsible for it.

He said: ‘We also see cases where it is unclear who is responsible for putting things right and people's ability to complain to us is masked, because of the complexity of the service provision arrangements.

‘Councils with well-thought out arrangements will hardwire learning from mistakes and public feedback into their contracts with their providers.’

Last month, the ombudsman suggested the LGO’s powers should be widened to include scrutinising public services even when they are not delivered by the public sector.

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