Public Sector: Feeney secures new Ombudsman PR role

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), the body that investigates complaints about local authorities, has appointed Jackie Feeney as its first head of comms.

Feeney has spent the past ten years at Havering London Borough Council, latterly as comms manager. She will communicate the LGO's recommendations to England's local authorities.

She reports to LGO secretary Nigel Karney, who said: 'We created the role to enable us to communicate more to local authorities the work that we do and the lessons that we learn from complaints.'

The LGO was set up 30 years ago to monitor councils and last year managed around 20,000 complaints. While the body has no legal power to force councils to change the decisions they make, its recommendations are followed the vast majority of the time, and cover a wide range of subjects from planning, council housing, housing benefit delays and school admissions, according to Karney.

'There is a big change in the local government agenda and there is more pressure than ever to make sure local government is working efficiently.

We can help by communicating the lessons we learn from examining decisions made by local authorities,' he said.

Feeney will be charged with producing publications and advisory materials for councils and targeting local government and specialist media, such as the housing and planning press.

The LGO has been accused of intervening in too few complaints and of being too close to the service it regulates, with two of its three secretaries former council CEOs. In addition, lobby group Ombudsman Watch was set up two years ago to monitor the LGO.

However, Karney denied the post had been created in response to these reports and the new lobby group.

Feeney joins the LGO on 18 April. Havering has hired Broxbourne head of comms John Entwistle to the newly created role of head of comms, to whom Feeney's replacement will report.

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