A word from Michelle

Welcome to the 4th edition of our newsletter.

As 2023/24 drew to a close I was delighted that the office well exceeded the target we had set ourselves to reduce our aged investigation cases and increase our productivity.  We reduced the aged cases by over 70% as a result of the dedication and hard work of our staff.

However, the events which arose at the end of March concerning social media posts made by our former member of staff (a Team Leader) came as a huge shock to us all.  Since then, my focus has been on rebuilding the reputation of the office and trust and confidence in our handling of Code of Conduct complaints.

I have appointed Melissa McCulloch, the Standards Commissioner for the Northern Ireland and Channel Islands Assemblies to undertake an independent review of our Code of Conduct processes, delegations and decisions to ensure that our approach has been sound, free from political bias and that lessons are learned from what has happened.  The draft Terms of Reference for the review have been published on our website and will shortly be agreed with Melissa.  We will publish the final report, share it with the Senedd’s Finance Committee and continue to engage regularly with key stakeholders including Monitoring Officers, the National Forum of Chairs of Standards Committees and the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

Again, we bring you a quick and easy-to-digest summary of our recent work up to the end of March 2024. Below, you will find our main complaints trends so far this year and summaries of our three new public interest reports.

Our Complaints

During 2023/24, we received 9,863 new cases – of which, 3,233 became duly made complaints.
Compared to this time last year, we are seeing increases in both complaints about public services and about the Code of Conduct. So far we have had 4% more complaints about public services and 16% more complaints about the Code of Conduct.

We also closed 9,771 cases – of which, 3,331 complaints. So far this year, we closed 281 investigations about public service complaints, 90% of which were about health. Public services complaints closures are up by 38%, and Code of Conduct complaint closures are up by 37%.

We reduced our aged investigation cases by over 70% which has had the effect of reducing our individual case holdings of Investigation Officers who handle complaints about public bodies to more manageable levels.  This was an excellent achievement and has placed us in a good position from which we can now improve the timeliness of our investigations.

To see summaries of complaints we resolved early or investigated, see Our Findings.

Public Interest reports

Between January and March, we published 3 public interest reports.

  • Swansea Bay University Health Board – 202200425 & 202201496 & 202200361: We found that, in addition to the long delays experienced by all patients awaiting orthopaedic surgery, patients suffered unfair treatment due to errors in Swansea Bay University Health Board’s waiting lists. Find more details here.
  • Aneurin Bevan University Health Board – 202301069: We found that Aneurin Bevan University Health Board failed to offer fampridine, a potentially life improving medication that may help to improve walking for some patients with multiple sclerosis, to eligible patients in its area. Find more details here.
  • Welsh Government – 202206003: We found that Welsh Government had failed to ensure that local authorities were carrying out their duties in respect of the provision of sufficient accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers. Find more details here.

Code of Conduct

During the last quarter, we had decisions on referrals and appeals to Standards Committees and to the Adjudication Panel for Wales:

  • Councillor Metcalfe of Cefn Community Council – Our report concerned a complaint that the Councillor had failed to declare a personal and prejudicial interest in a full Council meeting. It was alleged that the Member acted in an aggressive manner and complaints were received about his conduct.  The Standards Committee of Wrexham County Borough Council decided that Councillor Metcalfe had failed to comply with the Code of Conduct of Cefn Community Council and that he should be suspended for 4 months.
  • Councillor Scriven of Caerphilly County Borough Council and Trecenydd & Emerglyn Community Council – Our report concerned a complaint that the Councillor had posted an offensive message and photograph on Facebook. The Standards Committee of Caerphilly County Borough Council determined that the Councillor had failed to comply with the Code of Conducts for his authorities and that he should be censured for the breaches found. The Standards Committee also made a recommendation for further training in respect of the Members’ Code of Conduct, with a particular emphasis upon the use of social media to prevent breaches arising in the future.
  • Councillor McNamara (no longer a member at the time of the hearing) of Mumbles Community Council – Our report concerned a complaint that the Former Councillor had abused members of the public on social media. In its decision the Adjudication Panel concluded that the conduct of the Former Councillor on social media had brought herself into disrepute in her personal capacity. However, on the specific facts of this case, it concluded that it was not conduct which could also reasonably be regarded as bringing the Councillor’s office or authority into disrepute in breach of the Code of Conduct.
  • Councillor Louise Thomas (no longer a member at the time of the hearing) of Mumbles Community Council – Our report concerned a complaint that the Former Councillor had made a series of vexatious complaints to my office which had been targeted against a small group of the Council’s members. It was further alleged that the Former Councillor covertly recorded a confidential session of a Council meeting and offered to play the recording to a member of the public. The Standards Committee of Swansea Council decided that the Former Councillor had failed to comply with the Code of Conduct and decided to censure the Former Councillor whilst noted that, had the Former Councillor remained a member of the Council, it would have suspended the Former Councillor for 6 months. The former Councillor went on to appeal the decision of the Standards Committee to the Adjudication Panel for Wales who decided to endorse the decision.

Our Annual Sounding Boards

In March, we held the last session of our yearly Sounding Boards.

Our Sounding Boards are an opportunity for public bodies under our jurisdiction to feedback to us, and discuss our service in more detail.

Thank you to all the bodies who attended our sessions. The feedback received is truly valuable in helping us understand what we do well and where we need to improve.


  • In January, our Head of Complaints Standards Authority presented at the ‘Ethnic Minority Elder’s Voices to the Power’, a collaborative event between EYST Wales (All Wales Black Asian Minority Ethnic Engagement Programme), the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales and Age Alive. Thank you for the insightful discussion on the barriers faced by ethnic minority elders.
  • Thank you to all the tenants who attended our free workshop with TPAS Cymru in February. Our Ombudsman & Head of Complaints Standards Authority enjoyed the discussion on good practice procedures and positive complaint handling relating to repairs and maintenance services, disrepair, damp and mould.
  • We were also delighted to secure a stand at this year’s Eisteddfod. Come say hi to us in Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, from 3rd to 10th of August – we look forward to seeing you!

To join the press list for PSOW news, email us at communications@ombudsman.wales.