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Background Info

This petition has been written to highlight potentially serious problems and differences relating to the manner in which different councils handle similar affairs, which involve their in-house procedures. The fact that treatment from a local council may be a postcode lottery introduces the lack of equity in the treatment of the Scottish people.

The petitioner is aware that local differences exist but the base treatment should be similar and the public should have a point of help during any council negotiation. The CAB may be the most accessible route within the current system, but like all other routes, except for expansive litigation, the CAB and others are really impotent. The petitioner believes that this is a matter of concern - therefore beyond geographical constituency boundaries; a matter which touches all people living in Scotland, including the disabled.

The petitioner suggests that the autonomy of the councils is likely to be viewed as sacrosanct but this merely does a disservice to the Scottish people and accountability must be much more to the fore with transparency. The petitioner's opinion is that local government autonomy appears to be inviolable, yet there is ample and overwhelming opportunity to contribute to the betterment of this system. I believe it is incumbent upon those with the ability to do so that they do so; and possibly by submitting this petition, the petitioner is playing their small part. Where does the public get real help whilst dealing with the Council?

Private litigation:  This is an impractical route, expensive and a lengthy process often longer than the issue with a council.

SPSO: With regard to Scotland, the SPSO's data shows they receive around 3,000 complaints annually and uphold around 47 (obviously each annual report's figure varies). This, I suggest, is not due to the poor quality of complaint, but due to the remit within which the Ombudsman operates. Their remit is procedure and not the fact of the case. An extreme example is if the council beats you up, the Ombudsman does not address the fact you were beaten up - merely was the beating carried out within procedure. If yes, you would have no complaint…ridiculous.

Secondly, if the council beat you up, the Ombudsman will not step in to stop the beating as they can only consider entry once the beating has stopped. Sending the ambulance after the patient has died.

The SPSO remit is so restrictive that even if the SPSO upholds the complaint that is unlikely to bear real fruit for the complainant as an ineffective slap on the wrist may result without the complaint ever standing a chance of being made justifiably whole. There is no controlling authority therefore they can behave in as maverick a manner as they wish.

The public deserve better, after all it is public money that is funding them and frankly their statistics are so woeful the SPSO could be closed down without any real detriment to the public, yet the public purse would greatly benefit.

It is estimated that each upheld complaint costs the public purse in excess of £10,000 - that is value for money out of the window. NOTE: Recently the SPSO has been reporting a higher "uphold" rate but this, the petitioner suggests, is due to the mathematical gymnastics.

COSLA: This is an organisation within the U.K. that has absolutely no teeth, is made up of council employees and has categorically no regulatory power. The petitioner questions the existence of this body as council employees could meet once a month at each other's council chambers. COSLA set out guidelines generally known as disregards, which are drawn up mainly by council employees and therefore potentially open to showing bias.

The disregards are open to different interpretation potentially making them council-friendly and flexible allowing numerous interpretations by individual councils in their favour. This makes the determination of the same charge, say for the disabled, a post code lottery,  as the same charge figure can vary considerably because councils play pick and mix with the disregards, whilst deciding to apply them or not. They have the ability to ignore COSLA guidelines and nobody has any redress. I repeat in its present form COSLA is an unnecessary expense and pointless. The base figure within a calculation for disabled payment can vary by up to £50p.m.

Council self-policing: The petitioner has never been a fan of self-policing, or internal investigations, as they are open to corruption and bias. Self-policing appeals held by the councils can simply deteriorate in to a farce.

It is suggested that these appeals are independent but the petitioner suggests this is simply not true. The client is appealing in a system, which will never allow them equal control and justice. The first and potentially the second stage appeals are held within the council by council employees. The final appeal is hailed as being independent when it probably is not; the cards are stacked against the client. The final appeal often is a three panel appeal with one panellist being allegedly independent but often chosen by the council and the other two are council employees, which do not work within the department involved. Seriously? Whilst the client is captured within the council review procedure they are impotent.

Councillors: This group has no power over the council and can merely express client support if they so wish. Indeed, if the client is unhappy with a councillor's performance, the complainant has no redress.

Local advocates: Local advocates, although pleasant, often do not understand the issues and are unable to help with these issues and can only act as moral support. These local advocates do not have the required powers or knowledge base and cannot redirect the council to adjust a stance or approach.

Due to the lack of third party input to help clients; cases can extend for literally years and the council can decline internal and external mediation. This "not fit for purpose" environment dishes out inequality of charge and treatment across Scotland and the U.K. I understand the English councils are more favourable than Scottish councils.

HM Tribunal Court: HM Courts and Tribunal Service wallow in a certain impotency, as its remit is to look at the procedural law (similar to the SPSO) and not fact. What is the point of that remit?

An extreme example would be if you were arrested for murder HMCTS would likely uphold your guilt, as they look at the procedural law not the fact; the fact being you were 200 miles away and could not have carried out the act is immaterial. Where is the help for the public?

Councils operate often within this arena and not only know the procedures etc. but also the operating personnel. The client is so disadvantaged to such an extent that the white flag might as well be hoisted no matter how unjust that is.


Where can the public go to flag up potential concerns or identify mistreatment? This must be the only arena in Scotland where a power can do what it likes, despite the lack of justice being meted out and the members of the public are completely powerless to do anything.

Clearly the councils require operating with a certain amount of freedom but not to the extent they have carte blanche with NO mechanism to highlight potential wrong doing, crass mismanagement or injustice. Autonomy should not be a licence to allow councils to plough their own furrow at the detriment of the public e.g. calculating charges so differently that the public pay different amounts for the same service simply because of post code. Councils should not have the freedom to bully the public.

There must be a new body throughout Scotland that can act immediately on complaints and have the teeth to set in motion action to bring parity and justice. I also suggest that COSLA type organisations should be altered as what they establish as disregards should be rules not pick and mix. The petitioner realises that some potentially radical thinking is required to create the fair playing field and that councils will protest but such protestation is not currency for not doing the right thing by the Scottish people.

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