The Chief Legal Ombudsman is to leave her post, it has been announced – just days after the government praised the work she has done to revive the standing of her organisation and a few weeks after the service’s chief executive said he was leaving too.
Kathryn Stone is to become the new Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following a vote in Parliament last Thursday.
Ms Stone is expected to assume her new role on 1 January 2018, two years to the day after she took over at the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).
Last week, the Ministry of Justice published its review of the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), the body that oversees LeO, in which it said Ms Stone had made “significant progress in strengthening engagement, re-establishing the legitimacy of the service with key stakeholders and working to improve the culture within the organisation following the identification of financial and governance issues in 2014”.
Ms Stone said: “I have very much enjoyed my work with the Legal Ombudsman with our staff and service providers and I am looking forward to my new role in the House of Commons.”
OLC chair Wanda Goldwag said: “Kathryn has been offered a once-in-a-lifetime role as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and so will be leaving the Legal Ombudsman at the end of the year… We wish her well for the future in this important new position.”
One of the members of the selection panel for the commissioner role was Dr Jane Martin, the chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel. Dr Martin, the former Local Government Ombudsman, is also a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
Chief executive Nick Hawkins is leaving on 30 September, after nearly two years at the helm.
Ms Goldwag said: “Nick has been a great asset and stabilising influence to the Legal Ombudsman since he joined in October 2015 and I hold him in high regard.
“I personally am very sad that I will not be working with Nick for longer, but I am grateful that he stayed long enough to make my arrival as chair so smooth.”
LeO said that Mr Hawkins has “helped tighten up governance and financial controls and led a change in attitudes to recruitment, ensuring that the organisations always looks for internal talent first”.
Mr Hawkins said: “Working for an important, independent service like the Legal Ombudsman has been a particularly rewarding experience.
“I decided at the beginning of the year that I was ready to take on new challenges and opportunities, but leave behind a team and respected public sector body that I can proud of.”
Though recruitment for his successor is already underway, the departure of Ms Stone as well gives the board of the OLC the opportunity to consider whether the two roles should again be brought together – they were split in 2014 due to the governance issues that arose at the time.
Indeed, one of the recommendations of the Ministry of Justice review was that “to promote efficiency, the OLC should work towards merging the roles of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Legal Ombudsman following implementation of the ‘Modernising LeO’ programme”.