Local Government Ombudsman

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Legal framework

Local Government Act 1974

(You can find this Act on the UK Legislation website, and the Regulatory Reform Order in the Statutory Instruments section of the same website - see links in box on right hand side of this page. But note you should follow the instructions in the box 'changes to legislation' on that website to find the changes not yet incorporated in their version of the 1974 Act.)

The Local Government Act 1974 (the '1974 Act') established the Local Government Ombudsmen (LGOs) for England and for Wales. Wales is now covered by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

The 1974 Act defines the main statutory functions for the Ombudsmen:

  • to investigate complaints against councils and some other authorities
  • to investigate complaints about adult social care providers from people who arrange or fund their adult social care (Health Act 2009)
  • to provide advice and guidance on good administrative practice

The main activity under Part III of the 1974 Act is the investigation of complaints, which the Act states is limited to complaints from members of the public alleging they have suffered injustice as a result of maladministration and/or service failure.

Under Part IIIA the Ombudsman investigates complaints from people who allege they have suffered injustice as a result of action by adult social care providers.

The Ombudsmen's jurisdiction under Part III covers all local authorities (excluding town and parish councils); police and crime bodies; school admission appeal panels and a range of other bodies providing local services [see Making a complaint for a full list of authorities within jurisdiction]. The vast majority of the complaints the Ombudsmen receive concern the actions of local authorities and that is why they are known as the Local Government Ombudsmen.  It is the adult social care providers that are within jurisdiction under Part IIIA. The 1974 Act also refers to limits on the Ombudsmen’s jurisdiction [see Guide for Advisers for details]. Similarly, there are some limits on what the Ombudsmen may consider under Part IIIA. [see Adult social care].

Despite these restrictions, most of the administrative actions of local authorities and actions of adult social care providers are within the Local Government Ombudsmen's jurisdiction.

All the powers of investigation are vested in each of the Ombudsmen personally. The Ombudsmen are equal in status and neither has power to review the decisions of the other.

The Regulatory Reform (Collaboration etc between Ombudsmen) Order 2007 amended the 1974 Act and clarified the powers of the Local Government Ombudsmen and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to work together. With the consent of the complainant, the Ombudsmen can share information, carry out joint investigations and produce joint reports where complaints fall within the remit of both Ombudsman schemes. In practice, the Ombudsmen consider and agree proposals to conduct joint investigations where the matters complained about are so closely linked that a joint investigation leading to the production of a joint conclusion and proposed remedy in one report is judged to be the most effective means of reaching a decision on maladministration and injustice.

Date Updated: 16/08/13