Nicky Morgan is MP for Loughborough and a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee.
Access to independent, impartial ombudsmen should be a cornerstone of any democratic society that values transparency, justice and checks on power. Organisations offering services to the public – often at a cost of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money – must be held to account when things go wrong, and cannot be allowed to blame a lack of resources as an excuse for poor service delivery.
The public sector and private sector ombudsmen play a vital, if often overlooked, role in ensuring this accountability really happens. I firmly believe that if the ombudsmen are truly effective, and if the organisations investigated actually learn from the judgements made against them, then there are real gains to be made – both in terms of cost of service provision and in user satisfaction.
As the Public Bodies Bill returns to the House of Commons this week for consideration of Lord’s amendments, I think it is an ideal time for the Government to review the role and remit of the public sector ombudsmen. The ombudsman sector is clearly a candidate for reform, a subject I sought to address in my recent pamphlet, The Ombudsmen: Time for Reform? (published by Bretwalda Books), which explores the role of three particular ombudsmen, two from the public sector and one from the private sector, respectively: the Health Service Ombudsman, the Local Government Ombudsman for England and the Financial Ombudsman Service.