County council left reeling after ombudsman's report

Chief executive Stephen Moir who took over at New Shire Hall in February

Chief executive Stephen Moir who took over at New Shire Hall in February - Credit: CCC

Cambridgeshire County Council has been left reeling after the local government ombudsman issued a damning report on its handling of complaints.  

“During the year, my investigators have raised concerns about your council’s responses to our enquiries,” local government and social care ombudsman chair Michael King says. 

“Responses were late in more than half of cases.  

“On two occasions, my investigators had to involve a manager to get a response from the council.  

“These delays can result in further avoidable distress to complainants, and I ask the council to reflect on its practices and take the necessary steps to improve its liaison with my office.” 

The ombudsman says he upheld 13 (72 per cent) of complaints against the county council of out of a total of 18 investigated in 2021/22. 

Mr King has told the council to improve its responsiveness to complaints handling. 

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The report – and a letter from King – has landed on the desk of chief executive Stephen Moir. 

Mr King says all the complaints upheld were in the areas of adult social care, education or children’s services. 

The report shows that Cambridgeshire had not offered a satisfactory remedy to any of the 13 complaints before they were escalated to the ombudsman. 

However, the ombudsman said he was satisfied that in all cases its recommendations had been successfully implemented. 

Mr Moir said: “This report doesn’t make pleasant reading about our responsiveness or attempts to seek a remedy prior to complaints reaching the ombudsman. 

“This is not good enough and I am committed to improving how we resolve issues and manage complaints.” 

Mr Moir said that when he took over in February, he was "very clear” that he wanted the council – both employees and councillors – to have full regard for the Nolan Principles. 

These, he said, should govern the work of public servants – and key amongst those seven principles is being accountable for our actions and our decisions. 

“Despite our best efforts we will sometimes get things wrong,” said Mr Moir. 

“We are dealing with complex situations every day, and these often involve services being provided to very vulnerable people.   

“This has been exacerbated during the pandemic.  

“But when we get things wrong, we must apologise, put things right as quickly as possible and learn lessons to prevent repetition in the future.”