R (Adams) v The Commission for Local Administration In England & Ors  EWHC 2972 (Admin) (2011) PLLR 062
Ombudsmen - decision making - relief - costs
The Local Government Ombudsman's decision to discontinue an investigation was unlawful in the narrow sense that there was a failure to provide reasons. However, relief was refused and the other grounds dismissed. The LGO also had no jurisdiction to award costs.
11 November 2011
(1) The claimant, Janet Adams (A), challenged the Local Government Ombudsman's (LGO) decision to discontinue an investigation into a complaint of maladministration against the London Borough of Lambeth (L). A was disabled and was inappropriately housed by L. After almost two years and the intervention of A's solicitors, A was eventually re-housed. A made a complaint of maladministration to the LGO who investigated the complaint and recommended that L pay compensation to A, which L eventually agreed to. The LGO then discontinued the investigation without publishing a report. A argued that (1) the LGO had no power to discontinue an investigation which had been completed; (2) if the LGO did have such a power, the use of the power was unlawful; (3) that there was a failure to provide a statement of reasons; (4) that the investigation had been contrary to the principles of natural justice to conduct separate correspondence with each party (see ); and (5) the LGO should have recommended the payment of A's solicitor's costs.
(2) Bean J held that: (1) the investigation was not "complete" for the purposes of section 30 of the Local Government Act 1974 as the matter had not reached the stage where a report could be issued ; (2) the use of the power was not unlawful and was consistent with regular practice ; (3) the LGO was required by statute to send a statement of reasons but had failed to do so . This was the case even where the claimant had not suffered genuine substantial prejudice  - South Bucks District Council v Porter  UKHL 33 distinguished. However, relief would be refused as it would be pointless .
(3) Although the LGO had not copied all letters to A that were sent to L there was no unfairness. The LGO was attempting to promote a settlement and was doing so in the legitimate role of a mediator .
(4) As for costs, it was far-fetched to read section 31(2B) of the Local Government Act 1974 as requiring the LGO to recommend the payment of A's solicitor's costs  - . The guidance on the importance of law firms taking on legal aid work contained in R (E) v Governing Body of JFS (Rev 3)  UKSC 1 and R (Bahta) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 895 applied to courts, rather than the non-legal context of the LGO  - R (Maxwell) v the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education  EWCA Civ 1236 considered.
Application allowed in part.
 -  - Local Government Act 1974
 - Grounds of challenge
 -  - discontinuance and "complete" investigations
 -  - requirement for statement of reasons
 - refusal of relief
 -  - natural justice
 -  - guidance from JFS, Bahta and Maxwell
Judicial Review: Law & Practice, Chapter 2 Remedies, p76
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