East Devon District Council and the Local Government Ombudsman

Whistle Blowers Wanted

Driven by professional curiosity as a management system specialist, I pursued our complaint, about a development approval by the East Devon DC, to test the value of the LGO as a force for improvement of local government, rather than seeking compensation. Our experience reflected exactly the numerous similar stories that appear repeatedly on websites such as this one.

After a thorough examination of the planning procedures and case files, we spoon-fed the LGO investigator with irrefutable, documented and date-referenced, evidence of:

1. Approval of drawings that were out of scale and had been tampered with.
2. Highly significant omissions from the Planning Application Public Notices.
3. Objection letters from neighbours that had been "Lost".
4. Correspondence between Developer and the Case Officer that was outside the Council’s security stamping process.
5. Back-dating of a planning decision into a previous Planning Approval.
6. Failure to consult other relevant Council departments, despite an internal department requirement to do so.
7. Non-reporting to the Planning Committee of large dimensional changes in the building, despite an internal Code of Practice that requires all relevant changes to be reported.
8. Major inconsistencies with recent planning department decisions on similar developments at the same site.
9. Use of an illegitimate method to confirm a key measurement of building height.
10. Failure to inform us of major changes to the plans, despite an internal departmental requirement to do so.
11. Withholding of information on planning procedures from us and untruthful written responses to our complaints.

With the exception of Item 1, none of these suspicious actions were deemed by the LGO to be maladministration.

What message does this send to dysfunctional and dishonest local government departments?

What job satisfaction can the LGO’s 200+ apparatchiks find in working for such an organization?

Surely, there must be some amongst them with enough moral fibre to blow the whistle on this disgusting old boys’ club of ex-council officers at the very heart of our system of justice.

Dr. Tony Ashton (Principal Auditor, The Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment)

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