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Ombudsman's powers to extend over local authorities

Fri, 02 Aug 2019

By Ewan Gawne - Local Democracy Reporter
By Ewan Gawne - Local Democracy Reporter
The Cabinet Office wants to extend the investigative powers of the Tynwald ombudsman, to cover local authorities and statutory boards.
 
The role was established to investigate complaints from the public against government departments.
 
A consultation is being held with all the bodies set to be affected by the change, to gauge support for broadening the scope of the ombudsman.
 
If approved by Tynwald, offices such as the Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Public Services Commission will be covered as of January next year, with local authorities to follow in July 2020.
 
From then on, complaints against these bodies could be investigated by the current ombudsman, or Tynwald Commissioner for Administration, Ms Angela Main Thompson OBE.
 
Currently, if a complaint is filed with a local authority, it’s handled internally and there’s no external investigation procedure.
 
The Policy and Reform Minister says there will be costs to bear for some commissioners in establishing new complaints procedures, and if necessary, paying for the ombdusman’s investigations.
 
Chris Thomas insists it will ultimately lead to ‘better value for ratepayers’, as local authorities will modernise to be more accountable to those they represent.
 
“It’ll be a learning curve for everyone involved. The second report from the Tynwald Commissioners for Administration, published in July, highlighted issues with department’s complaints processes, and a lack of understanding over what the ombudsman can and can’t investigate.”
 
Which groups will be covered?
 
Following the consultation results, which will be considered by the Council of Ministers, and should the changes be approved by Tynwald, these offices will fall under the investigative lens of the ombudsman:
 
Stage 1 – coming into effect on 1 January 2020:        
 
  • the Manx Museum and National Trust;
  • the Public Services Commission;
  • the Attorney General’s Chambers;
  • the General Registry;
  • Industrial Relations Officers appointed under section 5 of the Trade Disputes Act 1985;
 
Stage 2 – coming into effect on 1 July 2020:
 
  • all local authorities
  • a joint committee of two or more local authorities and;
  • a joint board being a body corporate established under an enactment and consisting of members appointed by 2 or more local authorities; or by the Department of Infrastructure and one or more local authorities.

 

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