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ombudsman news

issue 83

February/March 2010

dealing with more numbers

Public consultation on our corporate plan and 2010/11 budget (for the financial year from 1 April 2010) closes on 22 February. As usual, our external stakeholders have responded helpfully and constructively on a range of issues, not least on their expectations for our future workload.

Forecasting future workload is an inexact mixture of art and science. For 2009/10 (the current financial year), taking account of all the information and views available, we had expected to receive 150,000 new cases. On current trends, it now seems likely that we will in fact receive 160,000 or so this year. But we have significantly increased our case-handling staff - so waiting times have reduced and should continue to fall.

For the next financial year, 2010/11, our central assumption is for a further substantial increase in new cases, to 190,000 - though we have also planned for a more pessimistic assumption of 228,000 new cases and a more optimistic assumption of 165,000 new cases. These figures reflect discussions with the financial businesses likely to have the largest number of cases referred to us, our own analysis of complaint trends, and discussions with the conduct-risk team at the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Next financial year we aim to resolve 20,000 more cases than we expect to receive, so that - if the number of new cases is within the range of our working assumptions - we will be able to keep on bringing waiting times down. We expect to deliver this while freezing - at the levels that applied in 2009/10 - both the total levy (collected for us by the regulator from all financial businesses) and the amount of our case fee (paid by individual financial businesses that have four or more cases referred to us).

The cost of the ombudsman service is paid by the financial services industry, in proportion to workload - with the total levy divided amongst the various industry sectors according to the proportion of cases they provide, and case fees directly linked to the number of cases.

The written responses to our consultation are not yet all in, but we have been discussing our draft budget with various external stakeholders. Almost all have been supportive of our assumptions on the number of new cases, our plans for how many we aim to resolve, and how all this is to be funded. But they have also noted that claims-management companies look set to drive up further the number of payment-protection insurance (PPI) cases, and that - as parties in all types of cases become more entrenched - the proportion of cases that can be resolved early on in our process may well fall.

Our new chief ombudsman, Natalie Ceeney, will be leading us forward into 2010/11. My time as interim chief ombudsman comes to an end on 22 March, when I will happily revert to my former role as corporate director.

David Thomas
chief ombudsman (interim)

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ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.