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Government rules out wide-scale Ombudsman reform in response to select committee report

A parliamentary committee's proposal to create a 'People's Ombudsman' by uniting the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has been rebuffed once more by the Government.

The call for fundamental Ombudsman reform was first made in 2014 by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC).

In May (20 May 2022), PASC's successor, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, renewed the call in a scrutiny report.

The scrutiny report, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Scrutiny 2020–21, said the reform should include:

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  • own initiative powers for the PHSO;
  • the need to unite the PHSO and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman;
  • complaints standard authority powers; and
  • the MP filter (as part of any change to remove the MP filter, the role of Members in assisting complainants must be secured).

The committee called the lack of action from the Government since the publication of the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill six years ago "as unacceptable as it is untenable in the long term".

In a letter published this week (26 July 2022) Cabinet Office Minister Lord True said he agreed that Ombudsman reform was "an important matter".

However, he added: "The Government has a number of key priority areas for its legislative programme and..... wide-scale Ombudsman reform is not included at the current time."

The Government continues to consider options for Ombudsman reform, Lord True said.

Adam Carey

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