Mellor welcomes ombudsman merger plans

28 May 15

Government plans to merge three public service ombudsmen into one organisation for the whole of the sector will provide better value for money, one of the watchdogs involved has said.

Responding to the provisions set out in the draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said the current system was too complex and confusing for people.

The PHSO has called for a single public service ombudsman to make it simpler and easier to complain about public services in England, and Mellor said she was delighted the government had made a firm commitment to reform.

Under the plans, a single body would take on responsibilities of the PHSO, the Local Government Ombudsman and, potentially, the Housing Ombudsman.

These organisations currently deal with complaints separately if service users have complained to service providers but are unhappy with the outcome. The PHSO deals with central government issues including the NHS, with the Local Government Ombudsman responsible for council provision and the Housing Ombudsman dealing with disputes between landlords and tenants.

A briefing note on the Bill stated that a merger would create the opportunity to improve public services by identifying where problems were occurring across different sectors and helping to create effective responses.

The new ombudsman would be independent of government and made accountable to Parliament.

Mellor said the public should not have to work out who funds or runs the service they feel let down by and then which ombudsman service to turn to. ‘We want a unified public service ombudsman that will make it easier for people to get redress when things go wrong ­– what I call the “no wrong door” approach to complaining,’ she added.

‘This will be better for the public, better for Parliament and provide better value for money.’

In a statement, Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin welcomed the consultation.

She said: ‘We will be responding in due course and encourage everybody with an interest in the work of the LGO, including users of our service and bodies within our jurisdiction, to contribute their thoughts to the consultation.’

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