Grenfell fire shows the world what lack of accountability looks like.

Open letter to James O’Brien LBC


Dear James,

I heard your frustration and absolute disbelief as you asked the question about what systems exist to hold Kensington and Chelsea council to account following their decision to close a meeting regarding the Grenfell fire because the media were in attendance.  You articulated the commonly held belief that as public servants there must be means by which they are accountable and asked members of the public to phone in with suggestions.  Unable to contact you at the time I have written this open letter to put you in the picture.  The simple truth is there are no effective mechanisms by which any public servant can be held to account.

I heard you read out The Nolan Principles of public life, of which number four is indeed ‘accountability’ but when did you last hear of a public servant being held to account for a breach of the Nolan Principles?  Never, they are not worth the paper they are printed on.  In order to hold anyone to account you must have an independent body with the authority to investigate and the powers to apply sanctions.  That body does not exist. 

I noticed that no-one suggested going to the Ombudsman as a solution.  The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) handle complaints about local council provision and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) handle complaints about all government departments and the NHS.  These bodies are free to use and supposedly provide an unbiased arbitration service to protect the public from the abuse of power.  Except, they don’t.

In 2015/16 LGO received 19,702 complaints from the public.  They investigated 4,464 cases (22.6%) and upheld 2,260 cases (11.4%).  Many of the upheld cases will be for minor issues – not full uphold.  Is it worth taking the trouble to make a complaint to LGO when nearly 90% result in no uphold?

PHSO are even worse.  In 2015/16 PHSO received 29,046 complaints, investigated 3,938 (13.5%) and upheld 1,543 (5.3%)  Just a 5% chance of uphold for all your time and effort.

Most people discover this unpalatable truth after suffering a traumatic injustice.  They turn to the authorities for protection and remedy only to suffer further abuse as those in authority manipulate the facts and collude together to avoid accountability.  Many have described using the Ombudsman as more traumatic than the original event.  It engenders a feeling of helplessness which can trigger post-traumatic stress disorders. Imagine thousands of ‘Hillsborough’ victims all fighting their own lonely battle for year after year with no worthwhile outcome.

The Ombudsman has no powers of compliance so must ‘reach agreement’ with the public body under investigation when applying sanctions.  The Ombudsman does not follow up on any recommended action plans so even when the case is upheld no-body knows whether any improvements have been made.  The Ombudsman only has the funds to investigate a fraction of the cases presented (13.5% for PHSO and 22.6% for LGO) and bends over backwards to avoid uphold.  Clear breaches in guidelines are passed off as ‘shortfalls’ rather than ‘maladministration’ keeping uphold rates down. It is a farce James – it would be laughable if the complainants were not vulnerable individuals already reeling from injustice.

The media have continually failed to show any interest in this national scandal but perhaps now that we can all see how easily the wheels fall off in the Grenfell Tower case more questions will be asked and the ineffective and biased Ombudsman should come under the glare of publicity as a complicit organisation which protects the guilty at taxpayer expense.

Della Reynolds












  1. dms91

    Action Speaks louder than words as saying goes and if nobody mentioned the LGO then regulation is failing us all. We are all fed up of fine words but if not implemented like the Nolan Principles………whats the point in even identifying them & writing them down.

  2. John O'Brien

    Excellent letter. James O’Brien ( my namesake) is renowned for raising issues on behalf of the abused of this world. Let us hope he takes up and continues to highlight just how good politicians are at covering grave errors by their employees not only in the civil service but also in the NHS. Keep up the pressure please.

  3. EJ

    All very sad, but all absolutely true. Having had experiences with regulatory and publc bodies and ombudsmen including:

    1) GMC not bothered about a GP lying on record, provably acting maliciously, causing diagnostic delay and lengthy delay in urgent support to a vulnerable child and saying GPs fitness to practice was not impaired, even when it was shown GMCs multiple own rules breached;
    2) PHSO altering the basis of complaint to avoid looking at cast iron (written) evidence of diagnostic negligence and cover-up and even then, not identifying clear breaches of the procedures they chose to investigate;
    3) LGO failing to recognise multiple laws, including criminal ones, breached by the LA (when a significant amount of proof was sent with the complaint as well) and evidence of malice, over two very serious issues;
    4) LA auditor failing to comply with duties in investigating provable misuse of public funds;
    5) DfE, CQC and Ofsted being uninterested in LA and school breaches of SEN and other laws;
    6) SENDIST upper tribunal referring to SEN and other laws as “various official documents” and dismissing them entirely to refuse permission to appeal;
    7) ICO being uninterested in LA breaching Data Protection Act 1998 40 day legal deadline three times the legal deadline;
    8) NHS England and NHS Monitor being uninterested in serious misconduct and negligence issues;
    9) NHS Litigation Authority trying to intimidate patient with high double-figure costs to deny provable negligence and corruption;
    10) Police ignoring misconduct in public office report by multiple persons and refusing to investigate.

    Transparency? Learning lessons? Getting it right? Duty of candour? (there’s another one, I’ll come back to it when I recall it!)

    Really. The public are simply not fooled and this ridiculous charade will at some point, all come tumbling down. It’s unravelling already and pressure is building. (Perhaps that’s part of the privatisation plan, but people are not stupid and will demand improvement rather than say ‘yeah you know what, the NHS isn’t working let’s scrap it for a private service’) And you know why this goes on? Yes, the laws, policies and procedures are set up to allow it, people in the jobs that make it happen, do so *because they can*. There are no repercussions because it’s built that way. Why would they punish people who are acting on, or within, what is written. Whether that be it’s written ambiguously (such as not saying ‘must’ and instead saying ‘should’, or saying a process/pathway must be present, but bodies are free to prevent people having access to that process!) to allow interpretation and loopholes, or has no safety checks written into it to ensure no abuse of process/power.

  4. EJ

    “Parity of Esteem” was the other phrase of course. See item F on the NHS England patient safety steering group:

    So we should all have our medical and clinical care considered held in equally important regard. If any member of Parliament, NHS, local government etc.etc. had their health and rights disregarded and held in as low esteem as clearly that of Joe Public is, you can be sure they would have very much to say about it.

    We are not the great unwashed. We are all equal before God. Rank and heirarchy mean nothing. We all deserve to have access to safe, fair and accurate, appropriate healthcare, education, services and redress and these empty phrases need replacing with action to rectify and improve all these things until they are fit for purpose.

  5. John O'Brien

    I have had the debate about the Nolan Principles with both a hospital consultant , a GP and the PHSO Ombudsman . Each of them pointed out there is no legislation to enforce the Nolan Principles. therefore they are not obliged to observe them As for EJ i am currently going through an experience where a GP surgery is lying to me in order to avoid a blot on their public liability insurance. for the failure of one of their partners to act in a competent manner. .

  6. Teresa Steele

    Brilliant letter Della, and I saw O’Brien’s rant regarding the accountability over Grenfell, thank you for writing this letter, would be brilliant if he got back to you.


    On Sat, Jul 1, 2017 at 7:00 AM, phsothetruestory wrote:

    > posted: “Open letter to James O’Brien LBC 30.6.17 Dear > James, I heard your frustration and absolute disbelief as you asked the > question about what systems exist to hold Kensington and Chelsea council to > account following their decision to close a meeting r” >

  7. John O'Brien

    Della. Keep up the pressure. The report today about child abuse in Jersey just shows how desperate people in authority and in control of our lives, can cover up their “errors and omissions” . for years on end in their own self interest . .

  8. John O'Brien

    I am in the process of negotiating with a no win- no fee solicitor to prosecute members of staff within PHSO for negligence. The institution itself is above the law. which is the way Parliament constructed it in the first place.. CQC has no teeth and is just another self preservation QUANGO. .

      • John O'Brien

        Will advise specific details once they are more detailed. They are broadly as detailed in my witness statement to House of Commons on July 4th. 2016. as published

        Specifically against Thomas Hampson ( as detailed ) who was the staff member who dealt with my joint complaint against an NHS trust and the C.E.O. of Surrey County Council and their Social services in a negligent and incompetent manner .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s