International Ombudsmen gather at Aberystwyth

Public Services Ombudsmen from the UK, Ireland and Catalonia will gather at Aberystwyth University on Friday 21 June 2019 for an international seminar on how they hold public services to account.

Chaired by Dr Elin Royles from the University’s Department of International Politics and Centre for Welsh Politics and Society, the expert seminar will bring together Rosemary Agnew, Public Services Officer for Scotland; Marie Anderson, Public Services Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

They will be joined by Peter Tyndall, President of the International Ombudsman Institution; Rafael Ribo, Ombudsman for Catalonia and European President of the IOI, and Llyr Gruffydd AM, Chair of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly for Wales.

Also speaking at the event are Dr Richard Kirkham, Sheffield University and Ania Rolewska a PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University studying in this area.

It is the second seminar organised at Aberystwyth University to discuss the powers of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, an independent office with legal powers to investigate complaints about public services.

The seminar focuses on new powers recently granted to the Ombudsman in Wales, including ‘own initiative’ powers to start investigations where there is evidence to suggest that there is a wider public interest issue.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Elin Royles said: “This timely seminar follows the enactment in May 2019 of the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2019 and provides a valuable opportunity to discuss the implications of the new powers, particularly by drawing on comparative insights of good practice in other parts of the UK and Europe. In doing so, we can contribute to broader discussions on the Ombudsman’s role in holding public services to account.”

Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said: “This event is a fantastic opportunity to bring together the Ombudsman community and share best practice. We will also look at how my office’s new powers could give a greater voice to the voiceless. For example, we know that people are sometimes reluctant or scared to come forward, so the new legislation will allow people to complain anonymously, and if our criteria are satisfied, we will be able to investigate. I am looking forward to implementing this exciting change, and am confident it will contribute to better public service delivery in Wales.”

The ‘Best Practice Seminar: New Powers and Possibilities: the Ombudsman and improving public service delivery’ starts at 09:45 on Friday 21 June 2019 and attendance is by invitation only.