“Ombudsman criticises city council for inappropriate use of confidentiality notices”

“The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has criticised City of York Council for excessive secrecy in dealing with complaints.

In his annual performance letter to the council Michael King, the LGO for England, said York had been criticised last year about “inappropriate use of section 32(3) confidentiality notices” and this shortcoming had been repeated.

The notices are used where a council provides information on cases but says this should be confidential to the ombudsman.

“Last year we stressed that serving such notices should only be done exceptionally to avoid giving the appearance of a lack of transparency by the council,” King wrote.

“It is, therefore, very disappointing to see this practice has continued this year. Your council has issued two section 32(3) confidentiality notices that we considered were not appropriate but the council, when asked, did not comment on why they had done so.”

He said York should “address this issue as a matter of urgency as it affects our ability to properly investigate complaints against it.”.

York’s chief executive Mary Weastell said: “We are committed to being an open, honest and transparent council and would never attempt to address complaints in any other way.

“I was very disappointed to receive this letter without any prior contact from the ombudsman or an explanation as to what the complaints related to.
“Despite asking, we still haven’t been given any further information.”
A meeting is due between the council and Mr King.”