I participated in a Scottish Government consultation carried out a few years ago entitled ‘Holding Public Bodies To Account’. I searched online and found a few links to consultation outcomes. On reading the information my understanding is the work is in part uncompleted. I did not find anything that raised expectation Local Authorities (other than for financial audit) will have any form of external independent investigation to overturn complaint findings. Complaints against Local Authorities are managed through the Authorities own complaints procedure. When this is exhausted and on receipt of a final response letter from the Authority the complainant can take their complaint forward to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). My understanding is the SPSO will look at the complaints process carried out by the Authority for the mishandling of a complaint but not to necessarily overturn the complaint finding found by the Authority. We find ourselves in the position of holding grievances against the administration of the Local Authority, that is, the organisation as a whole and how it conducts business on a day to day manner. There are a range of issues encompassing poor communication, consultation and information to communities, planning issues and of greatest concern the self-autonomy of senior officers to do what the Authority wants. As a sole entity how is a Local Authority held to account when it will essentially investigate itself and the SPSO will only review the process of a complaint? This level of self-investigation is not democratic and reinforces mistrust that the Authority will not deal with complaints fairly. The recognised process handed down to Local Authorities disadvantages the community whom the Local Authority is set up to serve. Complaints against elected members can be sent to the independent Ethical Standards Commissioner but there is no independent mechanism (that we know of) that can be applied to the Local Authority in the context of our circumstances.
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