Accountability often broken in outsourced council services

Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, has warned about the issues his office finds during investigations into councils’ management of external contracts and contractors.

Going evidence to the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, King said that councils need to ensure accountability for any outsourced services is not lost when the service is delivered by an external contractor.

He said: “Dealing with complaints about services outsourced to private or voluntary providers or delivered through other types of partnerships has been a growing dimension of our work across all areas we investigate. The law is clear: councils can outsource their services, but not the responsibility for them. Councils need to keep robust oversight of any organisations they contract with and have clear arrangements in place for how complaints will be dealt with.

“We also see cases where it is unclear who is responsible for putting things right and people's ability to complain to us is masked, because of the complexity of the service provision arrangements. Councils with well-thought out arrangements will hardwire learning from mistakes and public feedback into their contracts with their providers."

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