‘WE’VE wasted six months of our lives’ – this was the message made by frustrated campaigners in Littlehampton to the national body in charge of local government complaints.
Janet Crosley and Sarah Tyrrell, of Littlehampton Civic Society, had been part of the large swell of campaigners infuriated by the consultation process launched by Arun District Council, in 2012, into the future leisure provision of the area.
The pair had initially complained about the process – which eventually led to the temporary closure of the Windmill Entertainment Centre’s cinema, in 2013 to Arun.
But after an unsuccessful attempt, they voiced their annoyance with the council to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).
However, they claim they then faced a whole host of bureaucratic red tape, being kicked from authority to authority before receiving an official answer from the Ombudsman six months later telling them this was not something the LGO could deal with.
Sarah said: “This has all just been so frustrating. I feel like we have wasted six months trying to get the complaint sorted.
“It’s something that the Ombudsman could have told us that they couldn’t have dealt with on day one – not six months down the line.”
In a letter to the pair, the Ombudsman said that it did not have any power to investigate their complaint about the way Arun carried out its consultation.
The letter explained the LGO had no authority to look at a decision which affects all or most of the people in the district.
The Ombudsman added: “This complaint is about the way the council carried out a public consultation and took the decision with its contractor to close a cinema. Therefore, this complaint is about something which affects all or most of the people in the council’s area and the Ombudsman cannot investigate any aspect of this complaint.”
Khadija Meer, assessment team investigator, said the pair’s query was too generalised and explained that the Ombudsman’s role was to investigate complaints of maladministration causing personal injustice.
Janet has now said there needs to be more clarity in the complaints process so others don’t make the same mistake.