Ombudsman stats show stark reality of life in the West Midlands in 2023

The Ombudsman’s annual complaints statistics once again back up the harsh realities many people face in key areas of their lives – how their children are educated, how elderly relatives are cared for, and the houses they call home.

Now in its tenth year, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s annual review of complaints offers a unique insight into the health of local government services in England.

Through the lens of escalated complaints, the report details the common issues seen over the past 12 months, with key areas of concern including Special Educational Needs and Disabilities provision for children and young people, Adult Care Services, and Housing.

This year in the West Midlands, the Ombudsman upheld 358 complaints across 28 local authority areas. In terms of complaints the Ombudsman investigated, Birmingham City Council (128 upheld decisions) and Staffordshire County Council (41 upheld decisions) accounted for almost half.

Around 10% of complaints and enquiries were received from this region, slightly below representation as the West Midlands accounts for 11% of the population in England.

The overall uphold rate for the region stood at 77%, above the average of 74% for all regions.

Across the West Midlands:

As the largest authority in the region, Birmingham dominates Environmental Services (44 of a total of 62 upheld decisions for the region); Highways & Transport (18 of 24 upheld decisions) and Housing (27 of 43 upheld decisions).
22% of complaints and enquiries received were about Children and Education, below the average for all regions (24%).
17% of complaints and enquiries received were about Housing, above the average for all regions of 15% (and the second highest percentage share after London).
12% of complaints and enquiries received were about Environmental Services & Public Protection & Regulation. This was higher than the average for all regions (11%).
Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“We all want decent education services for our children, quality care for our loved ones when they are in need, and the reassurance of a safety net if we fall on hard times but all too often the complaints we receive show this isn’t what people experience.

“We know councils face huge challenges, so it is more important than ever for them to focus on the getting the basics right in services for residents and handling complaints effectively. Although local authorities often get things right, we frequently find councils repeating the same mistakes, ploughing ahead and not taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

“Our latest statistics shed light on the harsh realities people across the country face in crucial aspects of their lives. Council leaders now need to focus on learning from common faults and injustices so they can make a significant difference to the people our local authorities serve.”

The Ombudsman remedies individual injustice and, by sharing the learning from the complaints it investigates, improves local public, and adult social care, services

Published today, its annual review also shows over the past year, from 15,488 complaints and enquiries it received, the Ombudsman made more recommendations to improve council services than ever before (2,412). These remedies can include improving staff training, revising policies and procedures and reviewing records to identify other people who have also been affected by the problems identified.

It also made 4,907 recommendations to remedy individuals’ personal injustice, with remedies including apologies, reimbursement of fees and reassessments for services which should have been provided.

Over the past year, in 99.3% of cases, local authorities have complied with and implemented the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

The review report is available from the Ombudsman’s website at alongside data sheets to compare statistics for each local authority.

A visual representation for each authority is available at the Ombudsman’s council performance map