September / October 2011
That autumnal 'back to school' feeling at this time of the year has a particular significance for me and my colleagues here at the ombudsman service. It's a reminder that we're coming up to the half-way point of our financial year - at the end of September.
For the outside world there should be far fewer surprises than ever before about the issues and workload we've been facing in the first six months of this financial year. We've made no secret of the record number of cases coming our way - driven by the flood of payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints, following the banks' unsuccessful legal challenge. The numbers involved have been very clear to see - both from the statistics we published in the last issue of ombudsman news (covering the first quarter of the financial year) and from the complaints data we published a week or so ago, in relation to the 157 financial businesses who accounted for 93% of our complaints workload.
The figures for the first six months - showing a doubling of our workload compared with this time last year - make forecasting what will happen in the second half of this financial year especially interesting. With the commitment of the big banks to sorting out their substantial backlogs of PPI cases (applying our long-standing approach to settle these complaints fairly and quickly), I'm hopeful that we should start to see a marked decline in the number of unresolved PPI disputes being referred to us to sort out.
The impact of PPI complaint volumes on our workload over the next months is crucial, not only to how we plan and deploy our resources over the rest of this financial year. It's also a key part of planning ahead for what budget and resources we'll be needing in the next financial year (2012/13).
This is because our annual planning cycle for next year has, in fact, already begun. Over the last few weeks, colleagues and I have been assessing risks and priorities, analysing figures and trends, and forecasting budgets and numbers. We'll be sharing all this information in informal discussions with key stakeholders over the autumn months. And this will lead up to formal consultation in January and February on our plans and budget for next year. At this early stage it's already looking as though it's going to be another year of volatility and uncertainty on the complaints front. But I'm starting to recognise that this is perhaps just 'business as usual' for an organisation like ours.
What this means, though, is that it's never too early to start thinking about what you believe the trends and impacts might be that will affect our work at the ombudsman service next year. We'll be wanting to hear your views as part of our feedback and consultation process. I'm looking forward to it.
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.