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Modernise services to help cut cost of complaints, says LSE research

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People's complaints about government bodies - and putting them right - costs taxpayers at least £830 million a year, MPs will hear this Thursday 22 March.

Parliament's Public Administration Select Committee requested and received written evidence from LSE Professor Patrick Dunleavy|, as part of its enquiry into 'Public Services: putting people first' inquiry. This is looking at how people can be put at the heart of public services.

Professor Dunleavy chairs the LSE Public Policy Group (PPG), which in 2005 researched and wrote the report Citizen Redress for the National Audit Office, which looked at the handling of complaints and appeals in British central government. They found that:

  • Redress systems (complaints, appeals and ombudsmen) cost taxpayers in 2003-04 at least £710 million annually for central government. Today PPG estimates that this figure has risen to at least £830 million a year for UK central government alone.
  • Central government redress systems are delivering a generally poor service to citizens, one that is time-consuming and inefficiently organised compared with alternative, more modern models, such as that of the Financial Ombudsman Service in the financial services industry.

Professor Dunleavy said: 'In the Public Policy Group written evidence to the Select Committee, we suggest three main routes for improving these long-standing problems.

'Firstly, action by most central government organisations to commit to a 'zero complaints' goal, which many smaller and medium sized government departments and agencies are now in a position to attain.

'Secondly, clear action by the remaining departments and agencies that still have large amounts of complaints and appeals to appoint chief redress officers, to professionalise their handling of complaints and appeals, and to move towards a 'zero complaints' goal over a period of years.

'Finally, consideration of options for creating an integrated ombudsman's service within England, probably bringing together current separated ombudsmen's services under regional ombudsmen, with a small national office for handling publicity and major test cases. This year is the 40th anniversary year of the first Ombudsman being set up in 1967. Our research suggests it is time to reassess previous approaches that have not so far achieved major reductions in the bulk of complaints, and to look at new methods of working.'


Contact Professor Patrick Dunleavy, 020 7955 7178, email: p.dunleavy@lse.ac.uk| 

Judith Higgin, LSE Press Office, 020 7955 7582

PASC media enquiries: Jessica Bridges Palmer, 020 7219 0724/07917 488 447, email - bridgespalmerj@parliament.uk|. See www.parliamentlive.tv| 


For the written evidence to the PASC Committee, click here|.

For more about the LSE Public Policy Group, see LSE Public Policy Group|

For the Citizen Redress report, see the National Audit Office at http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/04-05/040521es.pdf|

PASC Committee members are Tony Wright (chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Charles Walker (Con) (Broxbourne), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

Press cuttings

Government needs shared service 'complaints' units (23 March 07)
Parliament's Administration Committee has been told that better complaint handling and a new quality assurance scheme could drive up public service standards. The recommendations were made by Professor Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE public policy group, during the committee's meeting about responsive public services.

Data Quality News
Shared service 'can improve complaints process' (26 March 2007)
It has been claimed that the government needs to improve its complaints handling procedures through establishing shared service units. Professor Patrick Dunleavy of the London School of Economics' public policy group has told Parliament's public administration select committee that the public sector's standards would be improved if a small number of professionally run shared service units could be utilised to deliver quick responses to complaints.

BBC News Online
UK needs a complaints hotline (22 March 07)
A single telephone number should be introduced for all complaints about public services, MPs have been told. People who did not have the internet at home got a worse service because making phone complaints was too difficult, expert Patrick Dunleavy, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at LSE told MPs.

21 March 2007